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Ralph Waldo Emerson
Author, Poet & Philosopher

1803 - 1882

The reward of a thing well done is to have done it.

                                                                                     —RW Emerson



Ralph Waldo Emerson was born on May 25, 1803 in Boston, Massachusetts. He is widely regarded as one of America's most influential authors, philosophers and thinkers. At one time a Unitarian minister, Emerson left his pastorate because of doctrinal disputes with his superiors. Soon after, on a trip to Europe, he met a number of intellectuals, including Thomas Carlyle and William Wordsworth.

The ideas of these men, along with those of Plato and some of the Hindu, Buddhist, and Persian thinkers, strongly influenced his development of the philosophy of Transcendentalism. In 1836 Emerson expressed Transcendentalism's main principle of the "mystical unity of nature" in his essay, Nature.

Emerson urged independent thinking and stressesd that not all life's answers are found in books. In his The American Scholar address to the Phi Beta Kappa Society at Cambridge in 1837 Emerson states that: "Books are the best of things, well used; abused, among the worst." He believed that a scholar learns best by engaging life. Emerson's essays on The Conduct of Life outline what one might do to engage life "skillfully."

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Copyright © 1995-2014 Robin Chew
Article written by Robin Chew - May 1996