Noam Avram Chomsky was born on December 7, 1928 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. His parents were William Chomsky, a Hebrew scholar and Elsie Simonofsky Chomsky. His parents first language, Yiddish, was forbidden in their home and Noam grew up reading Hebrew and later taught Hebrew classes. He first attended Oak Lane Country Day School and then later went to Central High School in Philadelphia. He entered the University of Pennsylvania in 1945, where he studied linguistics, mathematics, and philosophy, and in 1955, he earned his Ph. D. He spent four years as a Harvard Junior Fellow, doing doctoral research at Harvard University.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology offered him a position in 1955 and he became a full professor in the Department of Modern Languages and Linguistics in 1961. He was appointed Institute Professor in 1976 and has taught for over 50 years at MIT.
Not only has Chomsky made major contributions to the study of linguistics, but his linguistics work has influenced the teaching of computer languages and mathematics. Some of the historical principles of linguistics that he learned early on from his father set the groundwork for his later theories. The modern spoken Hebrew language was the basis of his research on his Masters. Among his many accomplishments, his greatest contribution is considered to be his work on generative grammar, which developed from his interest in modern logic and mathematical foundations. He believed that children were born with certain fixed and innate grammatical principles that assisted in the understanding of language.
Chomsky has been awarded an amazing number of Honorary Doctorate degrees by universities around the world, which include the University of London and the University of Chicago. He delivered the Beckman Lectures at the University of California at Berkeley in 1967 and in 1969 presented the John Locke Lectures at the University of Oxford and Sherman Memorial Lectures at the University of London. Noam Chomsky is currently the Institute Professor Emeritus of Linguistics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Noam Chomsky may be most widely known for his work in the field of linguistics but he is also known for his activism and outspoken criticism of United States policies, especially it's foreign policy. Chomsky is also said to be "the most often cited living author" and "one of the most respected and influential intellectuals in the world".
Lyons, John. Modern Masters: Noam Chomsky. New York: The Viking Press, 1970.
Rai, Milan. Chomskys Politics. London: Verso, 1995.
Leiber, Justin. Noam Chomsky: A Philosophic Overview. Boston: G.K. Hall and Co., 1975.
Written by: Lillian Dolentz, 2009