surname. Both of his parents were born in Canada. His mother was aBaptistschoolteacher who later became an actress. His father was a Methodistand had a real estate business in Edmonton.
When war broke out, the business failed, and McLuhan's father enlisted in the Canadian army. After a year
of service he contracted influenza and remained in Canada, away from the front. After Herbert's dischargefrom the army in 1915, the McLuhan family moved to Winnipeg, Manitoba,where Marshall grew up and
went to school, attending Kelvin Technical School before enrolling in the University of Manitoba in 1928.
At Manitoba, McLuhan's discomfort with religion
and his turn to literature to gratify his soul's hunger for truth and beauty
initiated a stage in his spiritual development which he would later refer to asagnosticism.
McLuhan earned aBA (1933)—winning a University Gold Medal in Arts and Sciences
—and MA(1934) in Englishfrom theUniversity of Manitoba, after a one year stint as an engineering major.
He had long desired to pursue graduate studies inEnglandand, having failed to secure a Rhodesscholarship to Oxford, McLuhan was accepted for enrollment at theUniversity of Cambridge. Although he
already had earned BA and MA degrees at Manitoba, Cambridge required him to enroll as anundergraduate "affiliated" student, with one year's credit toward a three-year Cambridge Bachelor's degree,before any doctoral studies.
Upon reflection years after,he credited the faculty there with influencing the direction of his later work because of their emphasis onthe
training of perception
and such concepts as Richards' notion of
These studies formedan important precursor to his later ideas on technological forms.
He received his bachelor's degree fromCambridge in 1936
and began graduate work. Later, he returned from England to take a job as ateaching assistant at theUniversity of Wisconsin–Madison,which he held for the 1936–37 academic year,
unable to find a suitable job in Canada.
While studying the trivium at Cambridge he took the first steps toward his eventual conversion to Roman
In 1935 he wrote to his mother:"[H]ad I not encountered Chesterton, I would have remained agnostic for many years at least".
McLuhan completed what was a slow but total conversion process when he was formallyreceived into the Roman Catholic Church. After consulting with a minister, his father accepted the decisionto convert; his mother, however, felt that his conversion would hurt his career and was inconsolable.
McLuhan was devout throughout his life, but his religion remained a private matter .
He had a lifelonginterest in the number three