Activist, critic and novelist Todd Gitlin, widely regarded as one of America’s leading public intellectuals, has died aged 79. New York Times reports

Born in Manhattan, Gitlin was educated at Harvard University, the University of Michigan and the University of California, Berkeley. From an early age he was an influential activist against nuclear weapons and the Vietnam War, becoming president of the New Left group Students for a Democratic Society in 1964.

Are non-fiction books included The whole world is watching: mass media in the rise and fall of the leftThe twilight of ordinary dreamsand Letters to a young activist† He was also the author of three novels, The Murder of Albert EinsteinSacrificeand immortal

His most recent book, Occupy Nationwas published in 2012.

Gitlin was remembered on social media by readers and colleagues. Historian Julian Zelizer wrote“So sad to hear about the passing of Todd Gitlin. He led a remarkable life and had a major influence on shaping the social justice movements of the 1960s. Gitlin will not be forgotten. His legacy will live on. May his memory be [a] blessing.”

And Gal Beckerman from the New York Times book review tweeted, “Todd Gitlin has left us. It’s hard to fathom the world without his spacious mind and gigantic heart. He was an extraordinary mentor to me and a dear friend. I will miss him.”

Michael Schaub is a Texas-based journalist and a regular contributor to NPR.