Emile Durkheim was French sociologist. He was born on April 15, 1858 in Epinal, France. Epinal is located in the Eastern French Province, Lorraine. His father, Moise was the Chief Rabbi of Epinal, Vosges, and Haute-Marne, while his mother, Melanie, worked as an embroiderer. Durkheim was the youngest of their four surviving children.
Durkheim’s great-grandfather, grandfather, and father were all Jewish rabbis. He was expected to follow suit so at a young age he was sent to a rabbinical school. He studied Hebrew, the Talmud, the Old Testament, as well as the curriculum taught in secular schools. Surprisingly his destiny for rabbinate was short lived. He gave up Judaism shortly after his bar mitzvah, a traditional Jewish ceremony held at age thirteen where a boy receives religious responsibility. He was interested in Catholicism for a short period of time but he decided to turn away from religion all together. This did not end his interest in the religion phenomena. He would continue to study religion from an agnostic stand point for the rest of his life.
He began attending College d’ Epinal where he was able to skip two years of schooling and easily earn his diploma in Letters in 1874 then in Science in 1875. Here he showed he was a brilliant student with a vast intellect. Seeking more knowledge he transferred to one of the greatest French high schools in Paris, Lycee Louis-le-Grand. While in Paris he began to prepare for the grueling acceptance exam for the prestigious school, Ecole Normale Superieur. During his time in Paris his father had became very ill and Durkheim became utterly miserable. The sickness was a great distraction to his studies and he was not able to pass the exam his first two attempts. Finally in 1879, after his third attempt he passed the exam and was accepted into the school at age twenty-one.
Durkheim’s generation at Ecole Normale Superieur was full of brilliant people. He quickly became a participant of the political and philosophical debates that characterized the school, though he was more interested in academics than politics. He found the literary nature of the school to be very disappointing but became very inspired by two of his teachers, Numa Denis Fustel de Coulanges and Emile Boutroux. Numa Denis Fustel de Coulanges taught Emile the importance of religion in social institutions and could be studied rationally and objectively. Emile Boutroux taught him that atomism, the reduction of phenomena to their smallest constituent parts, was a fallacious methodological procedure and that each science must explain phenomena in terms of its own specific principles. The theories he learned later influenced his theories on the subjects.
He successfully passed his agrégation, an exam required to be a teacher in a state secondary school. Durkheim had dedicated his life to a study of society but since sociology was not a subject at the secondary schools or universities, he launched his...