Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Jacques Barzun, wide-ranging cultural historian, dies at 104

Jacques Barzun, a Columbia University historian whose sheer breadth of scholarship — culminating in a survey of 500 years of Western civilization — brought him renown as one of the foremost intellectuals of the 20th century, died on Thursday in San Antonio, Texas, where he had lived in recent years. He was 104.

Mr. Barzun was 92 when he published what is widely regarded as his masterwork, the 800-page From Dawn to Decadence, 500 Years of Western Cultural Life: 1500 to the Present. Journalist David Gates spoke for a majority of critics when he wrote in Newsweek magazine that the book, which appeared in 2000, "will go down in history as one of the great one-man shows of Western letters."

Mr. Barzun sustained one of the longest and brightest careers in academia, having first risen to prominence as a professor who helped shape Columbia University's approach to general education. He later was dean of the graduate school, dean of faculties and provost. He had firmly established himself in the national consciousness by 1956, when Time magazine surveyed the role of intellectuals in American life and placed him on the cover. In 2003, he received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civilian honor.

In addition to conducting dynamic and wide-ranging seminars at Columbia with literary critic Lionel Trilling, Mr. Barzun wrote dozens of books on intellectual history and several volumes on the state of American education. Other topics he explored included French and German literature; music, language and etymology; crime fiction; suspense writer Edgar Allan Poe as proofreader; and President Abraham Lincoln as prose stylist.

Arthur Krystal, a literary critic and Barzun scholar, once wrote, "Barzun is someone to whom experts turn for help in their fields."

Mr. Barzun also originated one of the most oft-quoted aphorisms in American culture: "Whoever wants to know the heart and mind of America had better learn baseball." The phrase, which is inscribed on a plaque at the Baseball Hall of Fame, was from his 1954 book God's Country and Mine, a critical survey of American life at midcentury.

Comments
Pinellas sheriff, feds announce changes to controversial immigrant detention policy

Pinellas sheriff, feds announce changes to controversial immigrant detention policy

LARGO — For years, county sheriffs in the United States have faced a quandary when asked by federal officials to hold undocumented immigrants in their local jails. They could continue to hold them for up to two days past the time they were legally fr...
Updated: 4 minutes ago
UK helicopters join French counterterror mission in Africa

UK helicopters join French counterterror mission in Africa

Britain says it will send three Royal Air Force helicopters to join France's military mission against Islamist militants in Africa's Sahel region as part of closer U.K.-French intelligence and military cooperation
Updated: 6 minutes ago

Florida high-speed train kills bicyclist, 4th death so far

A fourth person has died in Florida after being struck by a new high-speed train
Updated: 6 minutes ago

Judge denies request to boost number of Trump voters in jury

Judge: Kansas men accused of plotting to bomb apartments housing Somali refugees have no legal basis to request prospective jurors from counties where more residents voted for President Donald Trump
Updated: 6 minutes ago

Court: Transit agency cleared in platform preachers' arrests

A federal appeals court has ruled in favor of New Jersey Transit in a dispute over the arrest of two men who were preaching on a train platform in 2012
Updated: 8 minutes ago
The Latest: Atlanta airport travelers face security delays

The Latest: Atlanta airport travelers face security delays

Officials at the world's busiest airport in Atlanta said limited staffing was causing passengers to wait more than an hour to get through security checkpoints
Updated: 8 minutes ago
What former ‘Noles Jacob Pugh, Matthew Thomas have to prove to NFL

What former ‘Noles Jacob Pugh, Matthew Thomas have to prove to NFL

ST. PETERSBURG – Former Florida State linebackers Jacob Pugh and Matthew Thomas have their unique reasons for reuniting in Saturday's East-West Shrine Game.Thomas is here because he finally began to live up to his five-star talent – once ...
Updated: 10 minutes ago

Police say suspect killed by officers was carrying BB gun

Vermont State Police say a 32-year-old robbery suspect shot and killed by police on the grounds of a high school was carrying a BB pistol.
Updated: 11 minutes ago

AP News in Brief at 6:04 p.m. EST

AP News in Brief at 6:04 p.m. EST
Updated: 11 minutes ago
Minimum wage, sick leave, ethics top Murphy's agenda

Minimum wage, sick leave, ethics top Murphy's agenda

Democratic New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy spent his first day on the job rallying for a $15 minimum wage and statewide paid sick leave, holding a Cabinet meeting and signing his second executive order
Updated: 12 minutes ago