William Golding was born on 19 September 1911 in Cornwall, England. His father was a schoolmaster and his mother was a suffragette. His parents wanted him to study science, but in his second year at Brasenose College, Oxford, he switched to English Literature. He wrote poetry and worked in amateur theatre before becoming a teacher. During World War II, he served with distinction in the Royal Navy, including commanding a landing craft on D Day. He believed that the horrors of the war originated in some innate evil within man, which he explored in Lord of the Flies. After the war, he returned to teaching and writing.
His first book, Lord of the Flies, was published by Faber & Faber in 1954, after being rejected by most publishing houses. It was not initially successful, but gradually developed into a bestseller. By the 1960s, it was a staple of school reading lists, and it has since been chosen by TIME magazine as one of the top 100 English language novels published between 1923 and 2005. Its success allowed Golding to retire from teaching in 1962.
In 1980, Golding won the Booker Prize for his novel Rites of Passage. Other novels include The Inheritors (1955), The Spire (1964) and Darkness Visible (1979). He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1983; the Nobel Foundation praised, "his novels which, with the perspicuity of realistic narrative art and the diversity and universality of myth, illuminate the human condition in the world of today". He was knighted in 1988.
William Golding and his wife Ann lived most of their lives in the village of Bowerchalke in Wiltshire. They had two children, one boy and one girl. Golding died in 1993.