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Henry David Thoreau

Born: 12 July 1817

Died: 6 May 1862

Nationality: American

Henry David Thoreau was born and raised in Concord, Massachusetts. He was an American journalist, poet, philosopher and historian.

He became known for his beliefs in transcendentalism, a school of thought that emphasised the importance of empirical thinking and of spiritual matters over the physical world. Among his lasting contributions are his writings on natural history and philosophy, where he anticipated the methods and findings of ecology and environmental history, two sources of modern-day environmentalism.

Thoreau was also a dedicated abolitionist, delivering lectures that attacked the Fugitive Slave Law.

In 1845, Thoreau built a small home for himself on Walden Pond where he spent more than two years seeking a simpler type of life. He experimented with working as little as possible rather than engage in the pattern of six days on with one day off. His schedule gave him plenty of time to devote to his philosophical and literary interests. He felt that this new approach helped him avoid the misery he saw around him. In his best known book Walden he reflected upon simple living in natural surroundings.

One of his greatest contributions was the essay Resistance to Civil Government, an argument for disobedience to an unjust state, a call for improving rather than abolishing government. Thoreau's philosophy of civil disobedience later influenced the political thoughts and actions of such notable figures as Leo Tolstoy, Mahatma Gandhi, and Martin Luther King, Jr.

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