Umberto Eco Knight Grand Cross (born 5 January 1932) is an Italian medievalist, semiotician, philosopher, literary critic, and novelist, best known for his novel The Name of the Rose (Il nome della rosa, 1980), an intellectual mystery combining semiotics in fiction, biblical analysis, medieval studies and literary theory. He has also written academic texts, children's books and many essays. Eco is President of the Scuola Superiore di Studi Umanistici, University of Bologna, member of the Accademia dei Lincei (since November 2010) and an Honorary Fellow of Kellogg College, University of Oxford.
Eco was born in the city of Alessandria in the region of Piedmont (northern Italy). His father, Giulio, was an accountant before the government called upon him to serve in three wars. During World War II, Umberto and his mother, Giovanna, moved to a small village in the Piedmontese mountainside. Eco received a Salesian education, and he has made references to the order and its founder in his works and interviews. His family name is supposedly an acronym of ex caelis oblatus (Latin: a gift from the heavens), which was given to his grandfather (a foundling) by a city official.
His father was the son of a family with thirteen children, and urged Umberto to become a lawyer, but he entered the University of Turin in order to take up medieval philosophy and literature, writing his thesis on Thomas Aquinas and earning his Laurea in philosophy in 1954. During this time, Eco left the Roman Catholic Church after a crisis of faith. After this, Eco worked as a cultural editor for the state broadcasting station Radiotelevisione Italiana (RAI) and also lectured at the University of Turin (1956–1964). A group of avant-garde artists, painters, musicians, writers, whom he had befriended at RAI (Gruppo 63) became an important and influential component in Eco's future writing career. This was especially true after the publication of his first book in 1956, Il problema estetico in San Tommaso, which was an extension of his doctoral thesis. This also marked the beginning of his lecturing career at his alma mater.