William Seward Burroughs came from an upper-class background in the midwestern United States, studied at Harvard University and then turned to drugs, crime and writing. In the 1940s he became addicted to heroin and met a crowd from Columbia University that included writer Jack Kerouac and poet Allen Ginsberg. In 1951 a drug-addled Burroughs recklessly shot and killed his wife while in Mexico; he fled and wound up in Tangiers. In 1953 Ginsberg helped Burroughs publish Junky, an autobiographical depiction of drug addiction, and in 1959 Burroughs published Naked Lunch. Burroughs became an underground celebrity, a literary guru and pop culture philosopher who continued to write and record until his death.
Burroughs’s grandfather, also named William S. Burroughs, founded the Burroughs Adding Machine Company. The company merged with Sperry in 1986 to form Unisys.
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