Born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Philip de Armond Curtin was educated at Swarthmore College and at Harvard University, from which he received a Ph.D. in history in 1953. That same year he joined the Swarthmore faculty as an instructor and assistant professor. In 1956, he moved on to the University of Wisconsin at Madison, where he remained for 14 years. During that time he was chair of the Wisconsin University Program in Comparative World History, the Wisconsin African Studies Program, and for five years, Melville J. Herskovits Professor. In 1975, he joined the department of history at Johns Hopkins University. In addition to holding Guggenheim fellowships in 1966 and 1980 and being a senior fellow of the National Endowment for the Humanities, Curtin has taken a leadership role in various organizations, including the African Studies Association, the International Congress of Africanists, and the American Historical Association. He also has gained recognition for his influential books on African history, including The Image of Africa (1964), Africa Remembered (1967), and The Atlantic Slave Trade: A Census (1969). In the latter, he demonstrated that the number of Africans who reached the New World during the centuries of the trans-Atlantic slave trade had been highly exaggerated.