Best known as a spokesman for those who opposed American involvement in World War 1, Bourne was generally an enemy of the status quo in American life. He wrote a number of important essays and articles, including “Youth and Life” (1913), “Impressions of Europe” (1914) and “The War and the Intellectuals” (1917). He wrote two books about progressive education, based on theories of his teacher John Dewey: The Gary Schools (1916) and Education and Living (1917). Bourne left much work unfinished at the time of his death: some of it was published posthumously in Untimely Papers (1919) and The History of a Literary Radical and Other Essays (1920).
Bourne battled serious physical infirmities from birth to death. He was disfigured at birth by the doctor’s forceps. At age 4 he had an attack of spinal tuberculosis that stunted his growth and left him a hunchback. When he was 23, he won a scholarship to Columbia University: his writing career started as soon as he graduated. Bourne died at age 32, a victim of the influenza epidemic of 1918-19.