Desiderius Erasmus

Desiderius Erasmus (1466–1536) was a Dutch Humanist. He was also the illegitimate son of a priest who in turn became a priest. Erasmus was well aware of the circumstances from which he sprang, and, though a priest, he satirized and condemned the hypocrisies of his time in his book In Praise of Folly and essays that comprise his Colloquia. In fact, the priestly life was not to his liking, so he looked for a regular job where he could don civilian garb. He ultimately needed permission from the pope himself to live and work as a secular humanist and humorist. He also is famous for his Latin and Greek translation of the New Testament.

Erasmus was a premier tutor, scholar, and professor and knew most of the great thinkers of his day. He was ahead of his time in that, in addition to his social satire and calls for reform, he also wrote treatises against the severe discipline of children and advocated adding physical education into school curricula. Because he never renounced the Catholic Church, when Martin Luther and the Reformation were in full swing, he ended up being embraced by neither side. The Church saw him as a gifted royal pain, and the reformers saw him as an apologist for an outdated and corrupt institution. His work eventually ended on the Church's notorious Index of Forbidden Books. Fortunately for Erasmus, he didn't lose his head for his heady arguments, unlike his contemporary and friend Sir Thomas More.

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