Mircea Eliade, (born March 9, 1907, Bucharest, Rom.—died April 22, 1986, Chicago, Ill., U.S.), historian of religions, phenomenologist of religion, and author of novels, novellas, and short stories. Eliade was one of the most influential scholars of religion of the 20th century and one of the world’s foremost interpreters of religious symbolism and myth.
Eliade studied philosophy at the University of Bucharest, receiving an M.A. in 1928 with a thesis on Italian Renaissance philosophy from Marsilio Ficino to Giordano Bruno. After studying in Calcutta primarily under the Sanskrit scholar Surendranath Dasgupta (1928–30), he spent six months practicing Yoga at Rishikesh under the direction of Swami Shivananda (1930–31). Returning to Bucharest, he wrote a dissertation on the comparative history of techniques of Yoga, for which he received a Ph.D. in philosophy in 1933. Appointed assistant to Nae Ionescu, the scholar he most admired, Eliade joined the faculty of the University of Bucharest and taught courses in philosophy, religion, and Hinduism and Buddhism. In the 1930s he became an influential literary figure in Romania, especially after publication of his hugely successful novel Maitreyi (1933; Bengal Nights). During World War II, Eliade served as cultural attaché with the Royal Legation of Romania in London (1940) and in Lisbon (1941–45).