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Desiderius ("The Desired One") Erasmus
Life Span: Born 27th October 1466, the Netherlands; died 12th July 1536, Basle
Star Sign: Scorpio
Famous As: Dutch philosopher and humanist.

Childhood: Born in Gouda, Holland, he was the illegitimate son of Roger Gerard, an educated priest, and Margaret, a washerwoman. Erasmus later tried to hide his origins by claiming to have been born in Rotterdam where his grandparents lived. He never used his father's name and called himself Desiderius meaning "the desired one" in Latin.
In 1478 Margaret left Gouda, taking her children with her, to live in Deventer where Erasmus was educated by the Brethren of the Common Life. When he was about fifteen both of Erasmus's parents died of the plague, and his guardians persuaded him to join an Augustinian monestery at Steyn near Gouda in 1487. He was ordained as a priest in 1492.

Work: He left the monastery to be the secretary to the Bishop of Cambrai. This led to a life in which he was effectively free to rome Europe to study and teach. He was in fact officially subject to being recalled to the monestery at any time, but he eventually received papal dispensation from even that commitment.
He studied and taught in Paris, and later in most of the cultural centres in Europe, including Oxford (1499) and Cambridge (1509-14) where he was Professor of Divinity and of Greek.
At the time of the Reformation Erasmus provided a voice of consensus in a divided Europe. His Colloquia familiaria helped to prepare the way for Martin Luther and his De servo arbitrio on the subjugation of the will, but Erasmus opposed his dogmaticism and responded with De Libero Arbitrio on the freedom of the will.
Erasmus's new translation into Latin of the New Testament from early Greek texts showed up mistakes in the Vulgate edition. William Tyndale used Erasmus's edition to produce his translation into English which became the basis for the later King James Version. Martin Luther also used Erasmus's version for his own translation into German.

Bibliography: Adagia, (Adages), 1500, 1508. Enchiridion Militis Christiani, (Handbook of a Christian Soldier), 1503. Encomium Moriae, (In Praise of Folly), 1509. Julius Shut Out, 1513. New translation of the New Testament into Latin from Greek, 1516. Colloquia familiaria, 1518. De Libero Arbitrio, 1523.

Friends & relationships: Erasmus fell madly in love with a tall young monk Servatius Roger and took to writing passionate love letters to which Roger reacted by asking him to moderate his language for fear of an indiscretion. While in Paris he took two English pupils. One was Thomas Grey, later Marquis of Dorset, and Erasmus got into trouble for making advances towards him. The other was William Blount, Fourth Lord Mountjoy, who became a friend for years, although Erasmus's interest in him was intellectual rather than physical.
In 1499 William Blount arranged for Erasmus to visit England where he became a friend of Thomas More with whom he stayed on several occasions. The site of Thomas More's house is 15 Cheyne Walk, London, SW3, upon which there is a medallion showing Erasmus facing Thomas More. The site of another of Thomas More's houses is Bucklersbury, London EC4, where Erasmus wrote Moriae Encomium in 1509. Erasmus also got to know several of the English humanists, especially John Colet.
Although ill in his last years Ersmus travelled Europe teaching and writing and died in Basle, where he is buried.

Finest Achievement: The introduction of Greek as a subject at Cambridge University.

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