English philosopher and physician, also called the Father of Liberalism, John Locke was born on August 29, 1632, and is considered one of the most influential thinkers of the Enlightenment era. His work led to the development of political philosophy and epistemology and also influenced the development of the theory of social contract, economics, and the human mind, among others. During his lifetime, he authored several treatises on important subjects which continue to be studied even today. Celebrate the birthday of this renowned philosopher right here with some insights and trivia from his life.
Prominent English philosopher and physician John Locke is considered one of the most influential thinkers of the Enlightenment. Born on August 29, 1632, in Somerset, England, he was the son of John Locke, a lawyer and cavalry captain, and Agnes Keene. He had one younger brother, Thomas. His mother passed away when he was very young and he and his brother were raised by their father in Penston. Due to his frail health, Locke was homeschooled till the age of 14, after which he attended the Westminster School in London. After completing his schooling, he enrolled at Oxford University in 1652, earning a bachelor’s degree in 1656 and a master’s degree in 1658. While at Oxford, he developed an interest in medicine, and in 1667, still looking for a career, he moved to London and resumed his medical studies under Thomas Sydenham, a prominent English surgeon.
Locke marked the beginning of his career in 1665 when was appointed as a Secretary to the English ambassador to the Brandenburg Court. Then, in 1668, he became a member of the Royal Society. During this time, he was appointed the secretary of the Board of Trade and Plantations and later, also served as the secretary to the Lords Proprietors of Carolina, learning the ropes of international trade and economics. In 1672, he became involved in politics under the influence of Lord Ashley Cooper, who would also serve as his mentor. In 1975, following the denunciation of Ashley by King Charles II, Locke moved to France and went on to earn a bachelor of medicine in 1675. He returned to England in 1679 and set about working on the “Two Treatises of Government,” considered a seminal work of political thought against absolute monarchy and individual consent as the foundation of political legitimacy. In 1683, he was suspected of involvement in a plan to assassinate King Charles II and fled to The Netherlands. While in The Netherlands, he began working on “An Essay Concerning Human Understanding” and the “Letter on Toleration.” He returned to England in 1688 alongside Mary II after the Glorious Revolution. It was after his return that his works “An Essay Concerning Human Understanding,” “Two Treatises of Government,” and “A Letter Concerning Toleration” were published in 1689. Following a marked decline in his health, in 1691, he moved into the residence of his close friend Lady Masham, an English writer and philosopher, and her husband Sir Francis Masham. In 1696, he was appointed as one of the first Commissioners to the English Board of Trade until 1970, when poor health forced him to resign. He passed away at their home on October 28, 1704, and was buried in Essex, England.
Locke’s philosophy and thoughts did not achieve much attention during his lifetime. It was in the 1700s that his work began to be cited in America, with “Second Treatise of Government” being cited in the American resistance to the British taxation system. Locke is also prominently known for his influence on political philosophy and modern liberalism, influencing the likes of Thomas Jefferson and other Founding Fathers of the U.S. Locke also had a significant influence in the area of epistemology, redefining subjectivity and proposing the philosophy of Tabula Rasa, or the theory that the mind is a blank slate at the time of birth. He also influenced modern psychology and political theory, the latter with his theory of social contract and the natural right to life, liberty, and property. His works and philosophical thought have placed him among the most influential thinkers of his era and it is thus that he is also known as the Father of Liberalism.
Marking the beginning of his career, Locke serves as secretary to the English Ambassador to the Brandenburg Court in Europe.
Locke becomes involved in politics after he becomes a member of the Royal Society.
With a lifelong interest in medicine and under the tutelage of Thomas Sydneyham, Locke earns a degree in medicine.
Following his return from France, Locke begins working on what is known to be one of his most important philosophical works.
Suspected of involvement in a plan to assassinate King Charles II, Locke flees England and escapes to the Netherlands.
After his return to England, his works “An Essay Concerning Human Understanding,” “Two Treatises of Government,” and “A Letter Concerning Toleration” are published in rapid succession.
Locke is appointed as one of the first Commissioners of the English Board of Trade.
Why We Love John Locke
He advanced the most seminal philosophical theories
Known as the father of British Empiricism, Locke is known for proposing some of the most important theories. They continue to be relevant even today.
His work continues to inspire philosophical discourse
Through generations, Locke’s work has inspired philosophers and philosophical discourse around the world. His work has set the ground for the theories of Voltaire, Thomas Jefferson, and other important thinkers.
He did not limit himself to philosophy
Even though he was already recognized as the preeminent philosopher of his time, Locke did not limit himself to the field. After developing an interest in medicine, he went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in medicine.
5 Surprising Facts
He had to flee from England twice
For his involvement in what was considered treasonous activities, Locke was forced to leave his country twice, in 1675 and 1683.
He was left without family in life
With his parents already having died, the death of his brother in 1663 left Locke without any family when he was just 31 years old.
He was never married
During his life, Locke never married and did not father any children.
He influenced the American ‘Declaration of Independence’
The authors of the American ‘Declaration of Independence’ considered Locke as one of their influences.
He was a personal physician to an Earl
Having studied medicine, Locke even served as the personal physician to Lord Anthony Ashley Cooper, Earl of Shaftesbury.
John Locke FAQs
What are John Locke’s three natural rights?
Among the three fundamental rights that Locke listed are life, liberty, and property.
What is John Locke known for?
The English philosopher is known for being the founder of British Empiricism, for defending political liberalism, and for authoring the first systematic exposition.
What was John Locke’s main contribution to the Enlightenment?
Locke is considered to be one of the influential philosophers of the Enlightenment, celebrated for founding the modern theory of Liberalism and his contributions to modern philosophical empiricism, theology, religious tolerance, and educational theory.
John Locke’s birthday dates