Thomas Merton (1915 – 1968) was an American Trappist monk, writer, theologian, mystic, poet, social activist, and scholar of comparative religion. Thomas Merton's American mother, Ruth, died when he was six years old. Thomas and his younger brother, John Paul (1918-1943), went to live with their maternal grandparents while their mother was dying and continued to live there for several months after her death.
Thomas’ New Zealand born father, Owen Merton, then collected Thomas (but not John Paul who continued to live with his grandparents until their death), and took the child to Bermuda. Owen Merton was an aspiring artist and often left young Thomas with friends while he went off to different areas of Bermuda to paint landscapes, and even to return to the United States for an exhibition in New York. After the exhibition was over, Thomas was returned to his grandparents in America while Owen traveled to France.
In 1925, Owen collected his son and the two (again, minus John Paul) traveled to France. 18 months later, Thomas was deposited in a boarding schoolwhile his father traveled and painted.Three years later, Owen took his son to England, and Aunt Maud took on the responsibility for finding appropriate schools and housing Thomas during holidays.Owen died in England in 1931 of a brain tumor and guardianship of Thomas transferred to a long term medical friend of Owen’s based in London.By then Thomas was 16. He finished school in England and completed one year at Cambridge. He hated Cambridge and finished his university education back in America at Columbia.