Joseph Wood Krutch


Biography of Joseph Wood Krutch

Joseph Wood Krutch (November 25, 1893 – May 22, 1970) was an American writer, critic, and naturalist.

Born in Knoxville, Tennessee, he initially studied at the University of Tennessee and received a masters degree and Ph.D. from Columbia University. After serving in the army in 1918, he travelled in Europe for a year with friend Mark Van Doren. Afterwards, he worked as teacher at Brooklyn Polytechnic.

He became a theater critic for The Nation and wrote several books, gaining acclaim through a work critical of the impact of science and technology, The Modern Temper (1929). He also wrote biographies of Samuel Johnson and Henry David Thoreau in the 1940s, altogether completing a dozen volumes of literary biography and theatrical history. Throughout his life he wrote thirty-five books altogether.

He worked as a professor at Columbia University from 1937 to 1953.

The Measure of Man was published in 1954 and won the National Book Award for Nonfiction next year.

After moving to Arizona in 1952, he wrote books about natural issues of ecology, the southwestern desert environment, and the natural history of the Grand Canyon, winning renown as a naturalist and conservationist. These writings expressed a yearning for a simpler, more contemplative life. "If you drive a car at 70 mph, you can't do anything but keep the monster under control," he expressed.

He died in Tucson at age 76 from colon cancer in 1970. One of the last interviews with Krutch before his death was conducted by Edward Abbey and appears in Abbey's 1988 book One Life at a Time, Please.

Many of Krutch's manuscripts and typescripts are held by the University of Arizona, where the Joseph Wood Krutch Cactus Garden was named in his honor in 1980.

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