William Strunk

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William Strunk, Jr., was born July 1, 1869, in Cincinnati, Ohio. After earning a bachelor’s degree at the University of Cincinnati in 1890 and a Ph.D. at Cornell University in 1896, Strunk went on to have a long career as an educator. He taught English at Cornell for forty-six years.

Strunk wrote the first edition of The Elements of Style for the use of his students and had it privately printed in 1918. A revised edition titled The Elements and Practice of Composition, with Edward A. Tenney as coauthor, was printed in 1935. The only other book Strunk wrote was English Metres, published locally in 1922. Better known as an editor, Strunk edited works by important authors including William Shakespeare, John Dryden, and James Fenimore Cooper.

Strunk married Olivia Emilie Locke in 1900, and they had two sons and a daughter. Strunk died in Ithaca, New York, on September 26, 1946.

Elwyn Brooks White, who used the name E. B. White, was born July 11, 1899, in Mount Vernon, New York. White was Strunk’s student at Cornell, from which he earned a bachelor’s degree in 1921, and went on to become a well-known writer. In 1926, White went to work for The New Yorker, which had been founded a year earlier and would launch the careers of some of the most respected writers of the coming decades. White was widely appreciated as an essayist and humorist, but his best-known works today are his children’s books, including Stuart Little (1945), Charlotte’s Web (1952; the Newbery Honor Book for 1953 and winner of several other awards), and The Trumpet of the Swan (1970; nominated for a National Book Award in 1971 and winner of several awards including the Children’s Book Award from the William Allen White Library at Emporia State University). In addition to many other awards and honorary degrees, White was honored in 1978 with a Pulitzer Prize special citation for his body of work.

In 1957, Macmillan hired White to revise Strunk’s ‘‘little book,’’ as the professor had called it, for general publication. This edition of The Elements of Style, published in 1959, became the classic that generations of college students have known as ‘‘Strunk and White.’’

White married Katharine Sergeant Angell, an editor at The New Yorker, in 1929, and the two had a son together; Angell also had a son and daughter from a previous marriage. White died in North Brooklin, Maine, on October 1, 1985, after suffering from Alzheimer’s disease.

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