Ernest Hemingway was born in the Oak Park suburb of Chicago, Illinois on July 21, 1899. His mother was a failed opera singer who taught music and was a member of the Congregational church. She fostered hopes that Ernest would pursue a career as a cellist. Young Ernest was much more influenced by his father, a prosperous physician, who during hunting and fishing trips to the family's retreat in northern Michigan instilled in his son the code of the hunt and the importance of physical prowess. Ernest received his first gun at age ten.
In 1917 Ernest decided to skip college and became a reporter for the Kansas City Star but soon left that job to join the war in Europe. Disqualified from army service because of an eye defect, Hemingway joined the Red Cross ambulance corps and was wounded while serving in Italy, a feeling he would later describe as "awfully satisfactory." While convalescing he fell in love with one of his nurses, Sister Agnes Hannah von Kurowsky, who spurned the younger man's advances and later married another man. Hemingway was much embittered by the experience and later got his revenge by killing off Kurowsky's fictional counterpart Catherine Barkely in A Farewell to Arms.
On the advice of Sherwood Anderson, Hemingway and the first of his four wives went to Paris where he became part of the "lost generation" of expatriate writers including John Dos Passos, Gertrude Stein, F. Scott Fitzgerald and James Joyce. While there he wrote articles for the Toronto Star. In 1923 he completed his first published work, Three Stories and Ten Poems. More books followed including The Sun Also Rises (1926) which brought him international literary fame. Hemingway's lean prose style and existentially cold heroes had an enormous impact on the world of letters and that style continued through such masterpieces as A Farewell to Arms (1929) and For Whom the Bell Tolls (1940).
During the course of his career Hemingway alternately lived in Europe, Key West and Cuba. He worked as a correspondent during the Spanish Civil War and the Second World War. Several films were made of his books and he was friends with many of Hollywood's leading actors and actresses.
The myth surrounding Hemingway, his virile manhood and ability to consume large amounts of alcohol helped almost as much as his writing to solidify his reputation as one of America's leading authors. In 1952 he published the short novella, The Old Man and the Sea which outsold all his other works and earned him the Pulitzer Prize. In 1954 he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature. As his health began to deteriorate he became mentally unbalanced and lost the will to live. Hoping to encourage a recovery, his fourth and final wife, Mary Welsh, removed him to their home in Ketchum, Idaho. There on July 2, 1961, distraught from an inability to write, Hemingway did as his father had done and took his own life with a gun.