John Locke
English philosopher, teacher, physician, scholar

1632 - 1704

John Locke was an English philosopher, teacher, physician, scholar, administrator, politician, and one of the early members of the Royal Society. Educated at Christ Church, Oxford, Locke became interested in science and philosophy and ultimately examined theoretical questions about the nature of man and society. He also experienced the practical problems of government and economy first-hand when he served on the Board of Trade advising King William III on colonial policies. No small part of Locke's understanding of the colonies was gained through meetings and correspondance with Virginia Commissary James Blair.

Locke wrote Two Treatises on Government (1690) [Second Treatises] as a defense of the Glorious Revolution of 1688. It defended limited monarchy and stressed consent of the governed and the natural rights of the people. This written defense set a precedent for the Declaration of Independence.

An Essay Concerning Human Understanding (1690) examined the basic characteristics of man as rational, free and equal, and living in a state of nature governed by law. Locke described the human mind at birth as a blank slate (tabula rasa) without ideas, arguing that man acquires knowledge through experience (reflection and impressions of the external world derived through the senses).

Locke's influential Some Thoughts Concerning Education (1693) began as a series of letters about education. Because Locke believed that perception was the source of knowledge and that the derivation of knowledge was through experience, he had several innovative ideas about the proper raising of children. For example, he suggested making tasks of learning pleasurable by turning them into games. His works were translated into several languages and even were mentioned in a letter by Eliza Lucas Pinckney from South Carolina asking a friend in England to send her young son "The new toy (a description of which I have carefully studied) to play himself into learning." Locke's ideas about education and his political views were influential in colonial America and the early Republic.

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