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Profile of the Day: Henry David Thoreau

On this day in 1817, American essayist and poet Henry David Thoreau was born.

Profile of the Day: Henry David Thoreau

Image: Henry David Thoreau / Wikimedia Commons

He was born David Henry Thoreau on July 12, 1817 in Concord, Massachusetts to John Thoreau, a pencil maker, and Cynthia Dunbar. He was named after his recently deceased paternal uncle. It was not until after finishing school that he began to call himself “Henry David.” It was after college that he was encouraged by his neighbor and friend, Ralph Waldo Emerson, to start publishing essays in the transcendentalist magazine, The Dial.

Today Thoreau is remembered as a leading figure of transcendentalism and is best known for his book Walden, which reflected on living a simple life close to nature. In addition, his essay, “Civil Disobedience,” is often considered to be one of the best known and influential essays and inspire other notable leaders, such as Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr.

Thoreau died on May 6, 1862 at the age of 44.

View Henry David Thoreau’s Geni Profile


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