Romanian-Born Authority on Religious History
CHICAGO (AP) _ Mircea Eliade, an authority on the history of religions who helped establish that academic discipline in the United States, is dead at the age of 79.
Eliade died Tuesday at a hospital at the University of Chicago, where he had taught at the Divinity School since 1956.
″The Divinity School is profoundly grateful for the humanity and singular distinction of Mircea Eliade. He is the most exceptional scholar of religion in the 20th century,″ said Franklin Gamwell, dean of the school.
″More than any other, he has opened the Western mind to the religious possibilities and the immense religious experience of the human adventure.″
Eliade wrote numerous books on the history of religions, including a three- volume series, ″A History of Religious Ideas.″
He also founded the Journal of the History of Religions in 1960 to provide a forum for scholarly discussion of the new discipline.
In a review of Eliade’s work, Harvard theologian Harvey Cox said he was ″by nearly unanimous consent the most influential student of religion in the world today.″
Eliade also wrote a number of novels, short stories, novellas, plays and literary criticisms. Thirty of his 50 books and hundreds of articles were published in English. His works appear in 15 languages.
Eliade was born in Bucharest, Romania. As a young student of philosophy at the University of Bucharest, he accepted a scholarship from a maharaja in 1928 and studied Eastern religions and philosophy in India for four years.
He received a Ph.D. from the University of Bucharest in 1932 after completing a dissertation on yoga, and taught there until 1939.
Eliade also was a visiting professor at the Ecole des Hautes Etudes at the Sorbonne in Paris and president of the Centre Roumain de Recherches in Paris before joining the faculty at the University of Chicago.
He was a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the Academie Royale de Belique and a corresponding member of the British Academy and the Austrian Academy of Science.
Eliade is survived by his wife, Christinel, and a stepdaughter.