Education: Biographer of Mankind

Will Durant: 1885-1981

It was all Spinoza's fault. In 1908 William James Durant, the Massachusetts-born son of unschooled French-Canadian immigrants, was well on his way to fulfilling his mother's dream that he become a priest. Then he came upon a copy of Spinoza's Ethics in a seminary library. So convincing did he find the 17th century Dutch pantheist that he quickly abandoned the church, deciding instead, as he put it, to pursue a "more intellectually honest life." What he found was another calling. For 48 years, eleven volumes and nearly 10,000 pages, Will Durant labored with monastic devotion on a "biography of...

Want the full story?

Subscribe Now


Get TIME the way you want it

  • One Week Digital Pass — $4.99
  • Monthly Pay-As-You-Go DIGITAL ACCESS$2.99
  • One Year ALL ACCESSJust $30!   Best Deal!
    Print Magazine + Digital Edition + Subscriber-only Content on

Learn more about the benefits of being a TIME subscriber

If you are already a subscriber sign up — registration is free!