Peter Ramus was born in France in the year 1515. His grandfather had been a nobleman. But his estate was plundered by Charles, duke of Burgundy, general under Emperor Charles V. Ramus’ grandfather was forced to leave his country and become a farmer. Ramus’ father made a living by making charcoal. Peter was compelled to be a servant in one of his uncle’s homes. But since he was always so busy, with no time to study, he decided it would be better if he could work in the home of some learned man.
He moved to Paris and was admitted into the College of Navarre. He worked hard all day for his masters and devoted the larger part of the night to his studies. In a sort time he received his M.A. He was much admired at school by both student and professors.
He began at this time to take private students until he was fit for more public work. He was shortly appointed to read logic and at the age of 21 he published a book entitled “Logic, with some Animadversion upon Aristotle.” For this work he was equally admired and hated. Many admired him for his learning and piety at such a young age, but others, jealous of his status complained of such a young man daring to correct Aristotle. By their political clout, the Sorbonne professors were able to have Ramus banned from teaching or writing any more on philosophy.
The governor of another college, wishing to restore his school which had been emptied by the plague, sent for Ramus to assist him in this task. His reputation alone restored the college and filled it with more students than it had before the plague. The Sorbonne doctors, angered by this turn of events tried to sow discord between Ramus and the college governor, but to no avail. Upon the governor’s death, Ramus succeeded him and was appointed by the bishop of Lorraine as the Regius Professor of Rhetoric and Philosophy at the ripe old age of 36!
Princes all over Europe tried to lure him to universities in their kingdoms by offering him large salaries. But no one was able to entice him to leave his beloved France. Before long he was made dean of the entire university. This gave him the liberty to pursue a quieter life. Religious turmoil made it unsafe to stay in Paris so he moved to Fountainbleu where the king’s library was. But even there it was not safe. Ramus therefore resolved to move to Germany until peace obtained again in his homeland. He travelled to Strasburg, Basel, Lausanne, Heidelberg, Nuremberg and Augsburg and was kindly accepted at all the universities of these cities. He returned to France once the war ended.
He stayed at the University in Paris until the St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre. The college gates were closed and Ramus locked himself in his house. The violent Papists broke through the gates, forced their way into his house and ran him through with a spear. Not being satisfied with this, they threw him out the window and then cut his head off and dragged his body through the streets of Paris. They finally threw his disfigured and dismembered corpse into the Seine River. This was in the year 1572. Ramus was 75. Adding insult to injury, the rioting Papists seized all of his books and writings, containing many valuable commentaries and destroyed them to the great loss of learned men.