Mircea Eliade (mûr´shə ā´lē-äd´ə), 1907–86, American philosopher and historian of comparative religion, b. Bucharest. He studied Indian philosophy and Sanskrit at the Univ. of Calcutta (1928–31) and taught history of religion and metaphysics in Bucharest (1933–39). A diplomat during World War II, he taught at the Sorbonne (1946–48) and the Univ. of Chicago (1957–85). His work in the systematic study of religions was pioneering; much of his work concentrated on the nature of religious culture and of myths and mystical experiences. Eliade's analysis of rites of passage, rituals marking key transitional moments in the life cycle (e.g., birth, adult initiation, death), influenced many anthropologists. His often controversial books include scholarly works such as The Myth of the Eternal Return (1949), The Sacred and the Profane (1959), and A History of Religious Ideas (3 vol., 1978–85) and novels such as The Forbidden Forest (1955) and The Old Man and the Bureaucrats (1979). Eliade was also editor of the Encyclopedia of Religion (16 vol., 1986).