Ernest Becker was born in Massachusetts to Jewish immigrant parents. After completing military service, in which he served in the infantry and helped to liberate a Nazi concentration camp, he attended SyracuseUniversity in New York. In his early 30s, he returned to Syracuse University to pursue graduate studies in cultural anthropology. The first of his nine books, Zen: A Rational Critique was published in 1961. He died in 1974 at the age of 49, two months before he was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for The Denial of Death.After his death, the Ernest Becker Foundation was founded, using Becker's ideas to support research in science, the humanities, social action and religion.