Gerrit Gerritszoon, (also known as Desiderius Erasmus) was born on October 28th, 1466 in Rotterdam, Holland. His father, Roger Gerritszoon, was a priest while his mother, Margaretha Gerritszoon, was a physicians daughter. Growing up, he and his brother went to school in Gouda, Holland. Margarentha brought them to Deventer, so they could be educated in one of he largest and best Latin schools in the Netherlands, called, "St. Lebuin's School". Gerrit stayed there from 1475 until 1484, developing skill in writing Latin. The schoolmaster, Alexander Hegius, introduced him to humanism which Gerrit later became devoted to. Gerrit's parets died when he was 13; he was now sent by his guardians for two years, which he afterwards called two lost years, to the monastery school of Hertogenbosch. Then, after wandering aimlessly about for a time, he was forced, through necessity and the insistence of his guardians, to enter in 1486 the monastery of Emmaus, near Gouda, a house of Canons Regular. He felt no true religious feelings, and in later years realized that this act was the greatest misfortune of his life. the beginnings of Gerrit's religious indifferentism and of his weakness of character are to be sought in his joyless youth and in the years spent under stress in the monastery. He was left free to pursue his studies, and devoted himself to the ancient classics that he admired. His religious training was at the study of St. Jerome and Lorenzo Valla.
The Bishop of Cambrai decided to visit Italy and chose Gerrit as secretary and traveling companion. He also ordained him priest in 1492. Gerrit remained in the service of the bishop, who, in 1496, sent him to Paris to complete his studies. The schools method of instruction then prevalent at Paris was so important to him that he spent much of his time traveling through France and the Netherlands; he was also for a while at Orléans, where he worked at his collection of proverbs.
The first publications occurred in this early period. In 1500 the "Adagia" was issued, a collection of Greek and Latin proverbs. In 1502, the "Enchiridion militis christiani", in which he described the nature of true religion, he had found in a monastery at Brussels.
1506 he was finally able to journey to Italy. On his way there he received at Turin the degree of Doctor of Divinity; at Bologna, Padua, and Venice, the academic centres of Upper Italy, he was greeted with enthusiastic honor by the most distinguished humanists, and he spent some time in each of these cities. At Venice he formed a friendship with the famous printer Aldus Manutius. His reception at Rome was flattering; the cardinals, especially Giovanni de' Medici (later Leo X), and Domenico Grimani, were gracious to him. He could not be persuaded to fix his residence at Rome, and refused all offers of promotion.
On his way out of Italy in 1509, he wrote the satire known as "The Praise of Folly", which in a few months went through seven editions. Gerrit may have been said to have reached the highest point of his fame; he was very well known all throughout Europe, and was regarded as an oracle both by princes and scholars. Every one felt it as an honor to be face to face with him.
This was also the period of his greatest productivity. At this time he wrote works designed to influence profoundly the ecclesiastical revolution that was soon to break out. The next five years he spent in England was only for a short time that he held a professorship of Greek at Cambridge.
The literary works made by Gerrit by this time made him the smart father of the Reformation. The Reformation destroyed the organic life of the church Gerrit had already subverted in a moral sense in his "Praise of Folly", his "Adagia", and "Colloquia", by his sarcasm or scepticism. Like his teacher Lorenzo Valla, he regarded Scholasticism as the greatest perversion of the religious. according to him, this degeneration went from the primitive Christological