Eric Hoffer, 1902 - 1983

portrait of Eric Hoffer

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Born: 25 July 1902, New York City
Died: 21 May 1983, San Francisco, California

At age seven Hoffer was mysteriously blinded, perhaps from the trauma of losing his mother, at age fifteen his sight returned just as mysteriously. Fearing he might become blind again, he threw himself into reading everything he could get his hands on. His father died and the cabinetmakers' guild made a $300 death benefit payment. He decided that Los Angeles was the place for a poor man to live so he got on the bus. He lived on skid row, supporting himself with odd jobs, for ten years but continued his reading. After a failed suicide attempt in 1931 he decided to live adventurously and became a migrant farm worker, collecting library cards from every town he worked. He was particularly impressed after being snowed in with a copy of Montaigne's Essays one winter. When World War II started he enlisted but was turned down because of a hernia, he decided that he could best contribute to the war effort by becoming a longshoreman at San Francisco's Embarcadero, a job he held until age 65. His first book, The True Believer (1951) was well received and is now considered a classic, he felt his best book was The Ordeal of Change (1963). His eleven books brought him fame and the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Biography from Wikipedia and Hoover Institution/Stanford University

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