Kurt Vonnegut: kert VAHN-uh-guht
Kurt Vonnegut was born in Indianapolis, Indiana, on November 11, 1922. He
studied biochemistry at Cornell University (19402) before attending the
Carnegie Institute of Technology in 1943. He served in the US Army from
1942-1945. As an advance scout with the US 106th Infantry Division during
the Battle of the Bulge, Vonnegut was cut off from his battalion behind enemy
lines and was eventually captured in December 1944 and held as a prisoner of war. He was held in Dresden where he witnessed the February 1945 bombings
that destroyed much of the city. He was one of just seven American
prisoners of war in Dresden to survive, in an underground meatpacking cellar
known as "Slaughterhouse Five". This experience formed the basis for his
most famous work, Slaughterhouse-Five and is a theme in a number of his
After the war he attended the University of Chicago (19457; 1971) where he specialized in anthropology. He was a police reporter in Chicago (1947), worked for General Electric Co's public relations (194750), and taught at many institutions. He eventually settled in New York City, and produced a steady stream of novels, short stories, non-fiction works, and plays. His first books were in the science-fiction genre but his work shifted to social satire with Cat's Cradle (1963). He is best known for his irony, wild inventive humor, and themes such as the uneasy balance between technology and humanity.
He married his childhood sweetheart, Jane Marie Cox, shortly after World War II, but they separated in 1970 and divorced in 1979, after which he married Jill Krementz. He had seven children in all; three with his first wife; he adopted his sister Alice's three children in 1958 when her husband died in a commuter train accident two days before she died of cancer; and adopted Lily in 1982.
He suffered smoke inhalation and was hospitalized in critical condition for four days in 2000 when a fire destroyed the top story of his home. He survived but his personal archives were destroyed. He died in Manhattan at the age of 84 on April 11, 2007 from injuries sustained in a fall some weeks earlier.
This biography was last updated on 03/24/2008.
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