Henry David Thoreau
July 12, 1817 - May 6, 1862
Henry David Thoreau was an American essayist, poet, and philosopher. A leading transcendentalist, he is best known for his book Walden, a reflection upon simple living in natural surroundings, and his essay "Civil Disobedience", an argument for disobedience to an unjust state. When Thoreau was sixteen, he entered Harvard College, where he was known as a serious though unconventional scholar. Following his graduation from Harvard, he became a protégé of his famous neighbor and an informal student of Ralph Waldo Emerson's Transcendental ideas. Thoreau was an ardent and outspoken abolitionist, serving as a conductor on the underground railroad to help escaped slaves make their way to Canada.
"Nature will bear the closest inspection. She invites us to lay our eye level her smallest leaf, and take an insect view of its plain."
"I learned this, at least, by my experiment: that if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours."
"I find it wholesome to be alone the greater part of the time. To be in company, even with the best, is soon wearisome and dissipating. I love to be alone. I never found the companion that was so companionable as solitude."
- His essay Civil Disobedience was influential to both Gandhi when he liberated India from the British & to Martin Luther King Junior in hi efforts to promote non-violent protest.
- He is considered the Founding Father of the Environmental Movement.
- He kept such good records of the flora and fauna around his area in Concord that today scientist are using his data as a method to prove climate change.
- After Thoreau’s death, the Boston Society of Natural History got a huge gift.
- Thoreau, a member, gave the society his collections of plants, Indian antiquities, and birds’ eggs and nests
- He invented a machine to improve pencils - in the 1820's, Thoreau’s father started manufacturing black-lead pencils; After his father died, Thoreau ran the family’s pencil company.
- Civil Disobedience (1849)
- A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers (1849)
- Walden, or, Life in the Woods (1854)
- Walking published posthumously (1862)
- The Maine Woods published posthumously (1864)
- Cape Cod published posthumously (1865)
- Although he received no awards himself, often eking out a living - he is the inspiration of several awards:
- The Emerson-Thoreau Medal is a literary prize awarded by the American Academy of Arts and Sciences to persons for their total literary achievement in the broad field of literature rather than for a specific work.
- The Henry David Thoreau Prize for Literary Excellence in Nature Writing was established in 2010 to honor and promote nature writing and writers.