Sunday, November 7, 2010
Celebrity Grave: Historian Will Durant
William James Durant (November 5, 1885 – November 7, 1981) was a prolific American writer, historian, and philosopher. He is best known for The Story of Civilization, 11 volumes written in collaboration with his wife Ariel Durant and published between 1935 and 1975. He was earlier noted for The Story of Philosophy, written in 1926, which one observer described as "a groundbreaking work that helped to popularize philosophy."
Will and Ariel Durant were awarded the Pulitzer Prize for General Non-Fiction in 1968 and the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1977.
Will Durant fought for equal wages, women's suffrage and fairer working conditions for the American labor force. Durant not only wrote on many topics but also put his ideas into effect. Durant, it has been said widely, attempted to bring philosophy to the common man. He authored The Story of Philosophy, The Mansions of Philosophy, and, with the help of his wife, Ariel, wrote The Story of Civilization. He also wrote magazine articles.
He was trying to improve understanding of viewpoints of human beings and to have others forgive foibles and human waywardness. He chided the comfortable insularity of what is now known as Eurocentrism, by pointing out in Our Oriental Heritage that Europe was only "a jagged promontory of Asia." He complained of "the provincialism of our traditional histories which began with Greece and summed up Asia in a line" and said they showed "a possibly fatal error of perspective and intelligence."
The Durants also shared a love story as remarkable as their scholarship; they detail this in Dual Autobiography. After Will went into the hospital, Ariel stopped eating. Will died after he heard that Ariel had died. They died within two weeks of each other in 1981 (she on October 25 and he on November 7). Though their daughter, Ethel, and grandchildren strove to keep the death of his Ariel from the ailing Will, he learned of it on the evening news, and he himself died at the age of 96. He was buried beside his wife in Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery in Los Angeles.