Herbert Spencer, 1820-1903

[Mentioned in Miscellaneous Writings, p. 361, and in Miscellany, p. 349]

A remarkable unity of interest characterized the life of Herbert Spencer, the English philosopher. Although his father was a schoolmaster, the son received little formal education. Consequently, he had an aversion to learning by routine methods; he was not encouraged to accept the authority of others in education. He recounts that his father was always saying to him: "I wonder what is the cause of so and so. Can you tell the cause of this:" Thus the habit of searching for cause was formed.

As a young boy he developed an interest in entomology. At sixteen he contributed to a magazine an article describing "the formation of certain curiously shaped floating crystals." At seventeen he worked out a geometrical theorem, which was published in an engineering magazine. He always had access to his father's philosophical and medical magazines. In addition to the boy's wide interests, he had marked mechanical ingenuity.

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Signs of the Times
March 26, 1960
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