Derek Antony Parfit was born in Chengdu, China on December 11, 1942 to parents who were doctors teaching preventive medicine at Christian missions. He received a degree in modern history in 1964 from Balliol College, Oxford. While on a Harkness Fellowship at Harvard University and Columbia University after graduation, he began attending lectures on philosophy and changed course. He was elected to a prize fellowship at All Souls College, Oxford, and had become a senior research fellow by 1984. He wrote several books during his lifetime including Reasons and Persons and On What Matters. In 2014, he was awarded the Rolf Schock Prize by the Royal Swedish Academy. He died on January 2, 2017 at the age of 74.