Huston Cummings Smith was born May 31, 1919 and raised in Soochow, China to American Methodist missionary parents. He lived in China until he relocated to Missouri to attend Central College, where he earned an A.B. degree studying Western religion in 1940. Huston Smith went on to obtain a degree in philosophy and earned his Ph.D. from the University of Chicago in 1945. After deliberating whether to pursue an academic career or a career in ministry, Smith accepted a position at the University of Denver, where he first met Aldous Huxley.
Through the writings of Huxley and Gerald Heard, Smith was inspired to explore religious mysticism and quickly expanded his interest to studying world religions. In 1947, Smith took a teaching position at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, where he remained for ten years. His in-depth research of world religions continued while at Washington University, including the study of Vedanta Hinduism for ten years. From these interests and experiences, in 1958 Huston Smith published what would become a seminal text in the field of comparative religion, The Religions of Man (later renamed The World's Religions).
From 1958 to 1973 Smith served as Professor of Philosophy at M.I.T., where he continued his intensive studies of world religions, including newfound interests in Zen Buddhism and Sufism. In 1973, he began his tenure at Syracuse University as the Thomas J. Watson Professor of Religion (now Distinguished Adjunct Professor of Philosophy, Emeritus), and in 1983, Smith moved on to University of California-Berkeley where he was Visiting Professor of Religious Studies.
Smith has made a lifelong journey exploring what he calls "the great Wisdom Traditions." To date, he has written fourteen books, innumerable essays and articles on philosophy and religion; he has hosted two public television series; and he has circled the world more than ten times seeking answers to religious questions through lived experience. During his travels, Huston Smith has encountered and befriended many well-known and history-making individuals, including Dalai Lama XIV, Timothy Leary, Ram Dass, and Martin Luther King, Jr.