Born in Spain in 1863, Santayana moved to the United States at the age of nine. He attended Harvard University, earned a Ph.D. in philosophy there, and joined the faculty. In the first decade of the twentieth century, he came to be regarded as one of the nation's foremost philosophers.
Travelling after being appointed a full professor at Harvard, he resigned on a whim, and settled in Europe, never to return to America. His last years were spent in Rome, until his death at 88.
George Santayana was an atheist, but sympathetic to religion. He felt that religion, though factually untrue, should be cherished as irrational poetry.
Here is his most famous quote, in context:
Progress, far from consisting in change, depends on retentiveness. When change is absolute there remains no being to improve and no direction is set for possible improvement: and when experience is not retained, as among savages, infancy is perpetual. Those who cannot remember the past are condemed to repeat it. In the first stage of life the mind is frivolous and easily distracted; it misses progress by failing in consecutiveness and persistence. This is the condition of children and barbarians.