25 Facts About Noam Chomsky You Might Not Know

Posted by , Updated on March 22, 2024

Described as the founding father of contemporary linguistics, the greatest living intellectual, and one of the world’s most contentious minds, Noam Chomsky has earned a myriad of titles. Regardless of what you make of this Jack of all trades – who stands as a prominent American linguist, philosopher, cognitive scientist, historian, logician, social critic, and political activist – one fact remains undisputed: Noam Chomsky is a pre-eminent public intellectual, renowned not just for his influence, but also his visibility. Beyond his polarizing political views, he is a celebrated ex-professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), now known as Institute Professor Emeritus. Recognizing the extraordinary nature of Noam Chomsky, we took it upon ourselves to delve deeper into this iconic intellectual and collate a catalogue of lesser-known details about his life. Hence, if you’re intrigued to understand more about Chomsky’s initial political article, his appearances in numerous movies, the species named after him, or his surveillance by the CIA, explore these 25 Facts About Noam Chomsky You Might Not Know.


Chomsky was born in 1928 in Philadelphia into a middle-class Ashkenazi Jewish family. He was raised Jewish and his full Jewish name is Avram Noam Chomsky.

Noam ChomskySource: en.wikipedia.org, image: commons.wikimedia.org

Both of Chomsky´s parents were East European immigrants – his father William Chomsky was a Ukrainian and his mother Elsie Simonofsky was Belarusian.

Noam ChomskySource: en.wikipedia.org, image: flickr.com

Chomsky faced anti-semitism as a child, particularly from German communities living in Philadelphia. He recalls German "beer parties" in his neighborhood celebrating the fall of Paris to the Nazis.

Paris in WWIISource: en.wikipedia.org, image: de.wikipedia.org

Chomsky wrote his first article when he was just ten years old. The article was about the spread of fascism, following the fall of Barcelona to Francisco Franco's fascist army in the Spanish Civil War.

General FrancoSource and image: en.wikipedia.org

He became interested in anarchist politics after he frequented left-wing and anarchist bookstores while visiting his relatives in New York. At the age of just 12 or 13, he became fully identified with anarchism. Chomsky later described his discovery of anarchism as "a lucky accident”.

Noam ChomskySource: en.wikipedia.org, image: commons.wikimedia.org

Chomsky received three university degrees (B.A., M.A. and PhD. – all in linguistics) at the University of Pennsylvania. Has was also named to the Society of Fellows at Harvard University, where he undertook research on what would become his doctoral dissertation.

University of PennsylvaniaSource and image: en.wikipedia.org

Chomsky is a leading critic of US foreign policy, capitalism and mainstream media and he has even got arrested multiple times for his open opinions, writings and lectures.

Noam ChomskySource: famousphilosophers.org, image: commons.wikimedia.org

Chomsky has already written over a hundred books on a number of topics such as linguistics, war, politics, and mass media.

Noam ChomskySource: en.wikipedia.org, image: youtube.com

Chomsky´s criticism of U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War, which he saw as an act of American imperialism, was one of the things that earned him a place on President Richard Nixon's Enemies List, a list of Nixon´s political opponents.

NixonSource and image: en.wikipedia.org

His criticism of US policy, capitalism and news media have been so strong and radical that some of his critics have actually accused Chomsky of anti-Americanism and apologia for terrorism.

American flagsSource and image: en.wikipedia.org

Chomsky was greatly influenced by Rudolf Rocker, a German anarcho-syndicalist, and George Orwell, an English democratic socialist and famous author.

George OrwellSource: en.wikipedia.org, image: commons.wikimedia.org

Chomsky is one of the most-cited living sources as he is the author of hundreds of interesting quotes, including the popular one: “I never was aware of any other option but to question everything.”

Noam ChomskySource: prosebeforehos.com, image: commons.wikimedia.org

Chomsky is known for his specific dry humor. After working as a renowned linguistic professor at MIT for more than 50 years, he said he had “absolutely no professional credentials”. In the same interview, Chomsky also said his success was “a series of accidents”.

Noam ChomskySource: www.critical-theory.com, image: commons.wikimedia.org

In an interview for the New York Times in 1969, Chomsky described the Pentagon as “one of the most evil institutions in world history,” ”the most hideous institution on Earth,” which ”constitutes a menace to human life.”

PentagonSource: newsofinterest.tv, image: en.wikipedia.org

Apart from all the fields and activities we have mentioned earlier, Noam Chomsky is also interested in environmental efforts. He has given several lectures on global warming issues, for instance.

Noam ChomskySource: a2larm.cz, image: commons.wikimedia.org

In a poll conducted in 2005, Chomsky was voted as the “World’s Top Public Intellectual”. He beat off challenges from Umberto Eco, Richard Dawkins, Vaclav Havel and Christopher Hitchens to win the poll.

Noam ChomskySource: theguardian.com, image: youtube.com

Chomsky has been given dozens of various honorary degrees, awards and prizes including the Sydney Peace Prize, the Erich Fromm Prize etc. In 2011, he was even conducted into IEEE Intelligent Systems' AI's Hall of Fame for "significant contributions to the field of AI and intelligent systems.

Noam ChomskySource: famousphilosophers.org, image: commons.wikimedia.org

In 2013, a newly discovered bee species was named after Chomsky. Now known as Megachile Chomskyi, the bee is endemic to Texas.

Megachile ChomskyiSource: natureworldnews.com, image: commons.wikimedia.org

An avid reader, he reads four or five newspapers daily, subscribing to the The Boston Globe, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Financial Times, and The Christian Science Monitor.

newspapersSource: en.wikipedia.org, image: flickr.com

Chomsky has starred in over 160 films, documentaries and TV series including “Best of Enemies”, “Is The Man Who Is Tall Happy?”, “The U.S. vs. John Lennon” and many other.

Noam ChomskySource: imdb.com, image: commons.wikimedia.org

Chomsky is a good friend of Hugo Chávez, a former Venezuelan President (serving from 1999 to 2013). In 2011, Chávez even suggested Washington make Chomsky the US ambassador to Venezuela.

Brasília-DF, 06/06/2011. Presidenta Dilma Rousseff durante Cerimônia oficial de chegada do presidente da Venezuela, Hugo Chávez. Foto: Roberto stuckert Filho/PR.Source: theguardian.com, image: commons.wikimedia.org

Despite having been raised Jewish, Chomsky is currently non-religious, although he has expressed approval of forms of religion such as liberation theology.

Noam ChomskySource: en.wikipedia.org, image: commons.wikimedia.org

Chomsky is uninterested in appearances and the fame that his work has brought him as well as he has little interest in modern art and music.

Noam ChomskySource and image: en.wikipedia.org

Chomsky´s 1957 academic work "Syntactic Structures" revolutionized the field of linguistics, fundamentally changing the current understanding of language and mind.

Noam ChomskySource: www.imdb.com, image: en.wikipedia.org

A document obtained pursuant to a request under the Freedom of Information Act from the U.S. government reveals that CIA monitored activities of Chomsky and for years denied doing so. CIA also destroyed its files on Chomsky at some point in time, possibly in violation of federal law.

CIASource: en.wikipedia.org, image: commons.wikimedia.org

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