The Man and His Message
The Marshall McLuhan Center on Global Communications
The Founder: Mary McLuhan
The Global Village
Index to all Pages


Herbert Marshall McLuhan, The Man and His Message
With Telephone and TV it is not so much the message as the sender that is "sent."
Marshall McLuhan

Marshall McLuhan was the chief theorist of mass communications in our time. He probed and he predicted trends. The study of mass communications became a central part of contemporary culture. His ideas stimulated thousands of artists, intellectuals and journalists in nations throughout the world and continue to do so.With the appearance of McLuhan's most ambitious book "Understanding Media" (1964), his reputuation spread like the "global village" what he foresaw, fueled his ascent to international prominence. Social critic Tom Wolfe, wrote: "Suppose he is what he sounds like: the most important thinker since Newton, Darwin, Freud, Einstein and Pavlov-what if he is right?" A quarter of a century later, the proof sits on our doorsteps.

McLuhan's work includes more than 15 books on communications, literature, the arts, sociology and education. Besides Understanding Media, which explored the way electronic media reflect and influence modern civilization, his best known works include the earlier Gutenberg Galaxy (1963, in which he introduced the phrase "global village" as a metaphor for contemporary society, The "Mechanical Bride" (1951) and "The Medium is the Massage," the title of which is a typical McLuhan pun, in this case on his own popular catch phrase.

Marshall McLuhan was a prophet in his own time. He saw the powerful impact of technological change on the world and showed us a new way to explain our world and society. Today, such McLuhan coinages as "sensory impact," "the global village," and "the medium is the message" have become part of the language.

As a Professor of English at the University of Toronto, McLuhan's eccentric yet exhilarating vortex of ideas were shared with circles of contemporaries, students and thinkers. His perceptions and insightful dialogue ranged from classic literature to pop music to feminism. His lecture halls were filled with both the appreciatively curious and the confused.

His first book, "The Mechancial Bride": "Folklore of Industrial Man," 1951, followed by The "Guttenberg Galaxy," published in 1962, stemmed mainstream academic and public inertia. McLuhan's eminence accelerated in a timely and welcome fashion in an era of heady optimism.

The media, which McLuhan predicted would shrink the world and the intellectual process, unwittingly became his pulpit. His public persona was now as the oracle, Canada's intellectual comet, the metaphysician of the media. Marshall McLuhan became lecturer to the world. Fortune described McLuhan as "one of the major intellectual influences of our time." The New Yorker said of him, "What remains paramount are McLuhan's global standpoint and his zest for the new. He has given a needed twist to the great debate on what is happening to man in this age of technological speedup."

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    Last updated December 2008