Published: Oct 25, 2012 11:09 PM EDT
Updated: Oct 26, 2012 6:31 AM EDT

Jacques Barzun, the pioneering cultural historian who became a best-selling author in his 90s with "From Dawn to Decadence," has died. He was 104.

Barzun's son-in-law says Barzun passed away Thursday evening in San Antonio, where he'd lived in recent years.

Barzun wrote dozens of books and essays on everything from philosophy and music to detective novels. The French immigrant also wrote a memorable essay on baseball, in which he advised that, "whoever wants to know the heart and mind of America had better learn baseball."

He taught for nearly 50 years at Columbia University in New York, including a Great Books course.

In 2000, he capped his career with "From Dawn to Decadence," a survey of Western civilization from the Renaissance to the end of the 20th century.