Most people know the name Erasmus of the European student network.
This network is named after the Dutch humanist, Desiderius Erasmus.
Erasmus was born at Rotterdam, October 28, 1466. He attended the school of the "Brothers of the Common Life" at Deventer. On his parents' death his guardians insisted on his entering a monastery and in the Augustinian college of Stein near Gouda he spent six years -- it was certainly this personal experience of the ways of the monks that made Erasmus their relentless enemy.
After taking priest's orders Erasmus went to Paris, where he studied at the Collège Montaigu. He resided in Paris until 1498, gaining a livelihood by teaching. Among his pupils was Lord Mountjoy, on whose invitation probably Erasmus made his first visit to England in 1498. He lived chiefly at Oxford.
In 1500 he was again in France, and for the next six years lived chiefly at Paris. To this period belong his Adagia and Enchiridion Militis Christiani. In 1506 he carried out a long-desired journey to Italy. His visit closed with a short stay in Rome, whence he carried away a far more friendly impression than did Luther when he made his visit.
The accession of Henry VIII, and the invitation of Lord Mountjoy, induced Erasmus once more to make England his home. In his satire, Encomium Moriae (1509), we have him in his happiest vein, as the man of letters and the critic of kings and churchmen.
Erasmus resided chiefly at Cambridge professor of Greek. After 1514 he lived alternatively in Basel and England, and from 1517 to 1521 at Louvain. In 1519 appeared the first edition of his Colloquia, usually regarded as his masterpiece. The audacity and incisiveness with which it handles the abuses of the Church prepared men's minds for the subsequent work of Martin Luther.
In 1516 was published his annotated New Testament, virtually the first Greek text, and in 1519 his edition on St. Jerome in nine folio volumes wherein he introduced a more rational conception of Christian doctrine. But when the Lutheran revolution came he found himself in the most embarrassing position. Those of the old order fell upon him as the author of all the new troubles. The Lutherans assailed him for his cowardice and inconsistency in refusing to follow up his opinions to their legitimate conclusions. In 1521 he left Louvain, and spent the rest of his life at Basel.
He edited a long succession of classical and patristic writers, and was engaged in continual controversies. With Luther himself Erasmus, after long hesitation, crossed swords in his De Libero Arbitrio (1523). Yet during his last years Erasmus enjoyed great fame and consideration. He died July 12, 1536.
More controversial was his anti-semitisme: He advocated setting synagogues on fire, destroying Jewish prayerbooks, forbidding rabbis from preaching, seizing Jews' property and money, smashing up their homes, and ensuring that these "poisonous envenomed worms" be forced into labor or expelled "for all time." He also seemed to sanction their murder, writing "We are at fault in not slaying them."
Erasmus stands as the supreme type of cultivated common sense applied to human affairs. He rescued theology from the pedantries of the Schoolmen, exposed the abuses of the Church, and did more than any other single person to advance the Revival of Learning.