Claude Debussy was born into a poor family in France in 1862, but his obvious gift at the piano sent him to the Paris Conservatory at age 11. At age 22, he won the Prix de Rome, which financed two years of further musical study in the Italian capital. After the turn of the century, Debussy established himself as the leading figure of French music. During World War I, while Paris was being bombed by the German air force, he succumbed to colon cancer at the age of 55. He was one of the most influential pianists of the 19th century.