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Herbert Spencer

The Father of Social Darwinism: An Account of his Life and Work

hannah lounder

on 19 November 2012

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Transcript of Herbert Spencer

Herbert Spencer Born in Derby
on April 27th, 1820 At the very height of British Industrialism... Herbert Spencer was a brilliant and unique Victorian biologist and philosopher of the mid 1800's. He was formally educated in mathematics, natural science, history and English by his uncle, father and members of The Derby Philosophical Society . As a child, Spencer was very sickly; all eight of his siblings died early on. He remained sick throughout his life, although some of it may have been in his head, as he was a severe hypochondriac. He suffered from chronic insomnia, depression and nervous breakdowns. He was famous for bizarre habits like wearing ear-plugs to avoid over-excitement, taking opiates and smoking to improve his health and soaking his head in brine before bedtime. He suffered a strange sensation in his head that he referred to as "the mischief". Although he was proud of these oddities, it was partly due to them, on top of his already poor health, that some individuals did not take Spencer's work entirely seriously and give it the credit it deserved. At the age of sixteen, he began working as a civil engineer on the railways and wrote in his spare time. He continued this for ten years and gained a healthy optimism for life and society. In 1848, he moved to London looking for a more financially lucrative life. He became an editor for The Economist, an important weekly magazine at the time for the upper-middle class. A Few Misconceptions
"Why Charles Darwin is a dirty cheat" While Spencer was working as an editor at The Economist, he also published his first book, "Social Statistics", that became very popular. He also became an active abolitionist of Poor Laws, national education and a central church. The book's publisher, John Chapman, helped him to acquaint with some of the leading and progressive thinkers of the time and gain many connections. In 1855, he published his second book, "Principles of Psychology”. By the 1870's, Herbert Spencer was one of the most influential figures of his time in sociology, philosophy and psychology.

Ever heard of "evolution" and "survival of the fittest"?

Spencer originally coined and popularized both those terms. His theory of evolution actually preceded Charles Darwin's by almost seven years, yet Darwin the one credited with the ideas. "Herbert Spencer has been tagged as a social Darwinist, but it would be more correct to think of Darwin as a biological Spencerian."

- The New Yorker, 2007 Herbert Spencer had one large, easily understood idea: evolution. While Darwin was parading around the Galapagos Islands studying birds and applying evolution solely to species, Spencer saw evolution working everywhere. People who had a limited interest in finches had a great interest in whether the state should provide for the poor or whether women should have equal rights. Moved to London in 1848 Spencer's Later Life He was rich and well regarded, and yet his life was far from ideal. He still suffered from frequent pains and mental instability. At the age of sixty, he was still unmarried and would eventually die so. He owned no home and spent the last decades of his life in loneliness and growing disillusionment. His hypochondria became much worse as he grew older. However, despite his poor and deteriorating health, he lived well into his eighties. In 1902, a year before his death, Spencer was nominated for the Nobel Prize for literature. Spencer continued to write till his last days. He died at the age of 83 on December 8, 1903. His ashes were buried at London's Highgate Cemetery near George Eliot and Karl Marx. By the time Herbert Spencer was in his late sixties, he had developed quite the reputation. Spencer had published eight highly successful books and held the distinction of being the first and only philosopher in the history to sell over a million copies of his works during his lifetime. He became a member of both the exclusive Athenaeum and X Club (of which Darwin was also a member) in London. "No one can be perfectly free till all are free; no one can be perfectly moral till all are moral; no one can be perfectly happy till all are happy." Sources! "The Story of Philosophy" by Will Durant
GaleGroup.com Article Sources:
Man With A Plan by Steven Shapin
Herbert Spencer by Alvin Wee
The Survival of the Fittest by Sojourners Magazine
Picture Sources
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