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Jacques Barzun
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Author
    (November 30, 1907-October 25, 2012)
    Born in Creteil, France
    French-American cultural historian and professor at Columbia University
    Wrote over 40 books and hundreds of articles
    Best-known book was 'From Dawn to Decadence: 500 Years of Western Cultural Life, 1500 to the Present' (2000)
    Moderated 'Invitation to Learning' on CBS radio
    Named a Knight of the French Legion of Honor
    Awarded the US Presidential Medal of Freedom (2003)
    He experienced deep depression and contemplated suicide at age 11.
    He credited his productivity in part to chronic insomnia.
    He concluded that Western civilization was coming to an end.
    He called himself 'a cheerful pessimist.'
    He entered Columbia University at age 16 and graduated as the valedictorian.
    With Lionel Trilling, he implemented the 'Great Books' curriculum at Columbia.
    He wrote about a wide range of subjects, from philosophy and classical music to baseball and detective novels.
    Literary critic Arthur Krystal said, 'Barzun is someone to whom experts turn for help in their fields.'
    His statement 'Whoever wants to know the heart and mind of America had better learn baseball' is on a plaque at the Baseball Hall of Fame. (He also autographed a bat for the Hall on his 100th birthday.)
    When 'From Dawn to Decadence' became a best-seller despite its 800+ page length, he said 'The whole thing is a surprise, because scholarship is not exactly the thing people run after these days, or perhaps at any time.'

Credit: C. Fishel


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