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Abbot, Francis Ellingwood (06 November 1836–23 October 1903), Unitarian clergyman and philosopher, was born in Boston, the son of Joseph Hale Abbot and Fanny Ellingwood Larcom. The senior Abbot was a schoolmaster and amateur scientist who reflected the strict moralism of early nineteenth-century Unitarianism, while his wife displayed a strong poetical bent, and Abbot’s life and career were influenced by both. After being educated at the Boston Latin School he entered Harvard College and graduated in 1859. While there he underwent a strong religious conversion, at least partly through the influence of his college friend ...

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Brownson, Orestes Augustus (16 September 1803–17 April 1876), educator and philosopher, was born in Stockbridge, Vermont, the son of Sylvester Augustus Brownson and Relief Metcalf, farmers. His father died when Brownson was two, and he was placed with a nearby family. The couple reared him in strict Calvinist Congregationalism. At fourteen he rejoined his mother and twin sister in Ballston Spa in upstate New York, where he studied briefly in an academy before going to work in a printer’s office. He had no more formal education. In 1827 he married Sally Healy of Elbridge, New York; they had eight children....

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Carus, Paul (18 July 1852–11 February 1919), editor, author, and philosopher, was born in Ilsenburg, Germany, the son of Dr. Gustav Carus, the first superintendent-general of the Church of Eastern and Western Prussia, and Laura Krueger. As the son of a well-known theologian and state church official, Carus was afforded an appropriate Gymnasium education, which focused on mathematics and the classics. He studied at the Universities of Greifswald, Strasbourg, and Tübingen, eventually earning his Ph.D. degree from Tübingen in 1876. His first professional position was as an educator at the military academy in Dresden, an appointment he soon resigned because of conflicts over his liberal religious views. He then lived briefly in England (1881–1884) before traveling to the United States and settling in LaSalle, Illinois, where he lived for the remainder of his life....

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Dietrich, John Hassler (14 January 1878–22 July 1957), Unitarian minister and a leader of the humanist movement in twentieth-century Unitarianism, was born in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, the son of Jerome Dietrich and Sarah Sarbaugh, farmers. He graduated from Franklin and Marshall College in 1900 and studied at the Reformed Theological Seminary, Lancaster, Pennsylvania, from 1902 to 1905. He began his ministerial career in 1905 at the Reformed church at St. Mark’s Memorial Church in Pittsburgh. His early career was marked by conflict with his denomination over a number of issues, some related to the parish politics at St. Mark’s, others arising as a result of his growing liberalism in theology. In 1911 he was tried for heresy by the Allegheny Classis of the Reformed church, which cited his lack of belief in the infallible truth of the Bible and the supernatural nature of Jesus....

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Ralph Waldo Emerson. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-98114).

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Emerson, Ralph Waldo (25 May 1803–27 April 1882), lecturer and author, was born in Boston, Massachusetts, the son of William Emerson, a Congregational minister, and Ruth Haskins. Ralph was one of eight children. His father was a liberal, Concord-born minister of the First Church in Boston and active in the city’s intellectual and social life, being an editor of the ...

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Gros, John Daniel (1737–25 May 1812), clergyman, college professor, and philosopher, was born in the Bavarian Palatinate at Webenheim, near the city of Zweibrücken, Germany, the son of Lorenz Gros and Anna Magdalena. Little is known of Gros’s upbringing and early education. His name is sometimes spelled Gross. Gros entered the University of Marburg in 1758 and then matriculated at the University of Heidelberg in 1761, partaking in theological studies. Having intentions of entering the pastoral ministry of the German Reformed church, Gros journeyed to America, landing in Philadelphia in 1764. As the North American population continued to increase, a growing need for pastors existed. Gros’s esteemed German education and some influential connections led the German Reformed Coetus of Pennsylvania to ordain him in 1765. The coetus enacted the ordination without first receiving ratification from the Dutch Church Synod in Holland, which was the mandated procedure at that time. This was a precedent-setting act, as the German Reformed denomination in America began to break free from the church authorities in Europe....

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J. Hunter Guthrie. Courtesy of St. Joseph�s University Archives.

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Guthrie, Joseph Hunter (08 January 1901–11 November 1974), Roman Catholic clergyman and philosopher, was born in New York City, the son of Jacob Francis Guthrie and Mary Ross. He excelled at Fordham Preparatory School and continued his classical studies after entering the Society of Jesus at St. Andrew-on-Hudson in Poughkeepsie, New York, on 30 July 1917. At Weston College (Mass), he pursued science and philosophy, and he earned his A.B. (1923) and M.A. (1924) in philosophy from Woodstock College in Maryland. He taught and coached drama at Vigan Seminary and then at the Ateneo de Manila in the Philippines. His ...

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Hutner, Isaac (1906–27 November 1980), rabbi, philosopher, and leader of Orthodox Judaism in the United States and Israel, was born in Warsaw, Russian Poland, into a family of prominent supporters of the Hasidic school of Kotzk. He received a traditional Jewish education. Having gained a reputation as a prodigy ( ...

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Johnson, Samuel (14 October 1696–06 January 1772), Anglican priest-missionary, philosopher, and college president, was born in Guilford, Connecticut, the son of Samuel Johnson, a fuller, and Mary Sage. Samuel was devoted to books and learning even as a small boy. At fourteen he entered the Collegiate School (later Yale College). Adept in Latin, Greek, and Hebrew, he began a lifetime of intellectual activity by composing “A Synopsis of Natural Philosophy,” which he expanded into “An Encyclopedia of Philosophy.” Even before graduation in 1714, Johnson began teaching school at Guilford, and in 1716 he was made a tutor of the Collegiate School. Johnson expanded his intellectual horizons by voluminous reading in the library collected by ...

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Ladd, George Trumbull (19 January 1842–08 August 1921), theologian, philosopher, and psychologist, was born in Painesville, Ohio, the son of Silas Trumbull Ladd, a businessman and treasurer of Western Reserve College, and Elizabeth Williams. Ladd graduated from Western Reserve College in 1864 and from Andover Theological Seminary in 1869. Also in 1869 he married Cornelia Ann Tallman of Bellaire, Ohio; they had four children. He was a minister for nearly a decade, spending two years in a small church in Ohio and eight years in the large Spring Street Congregational Church in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Ladd wrote and read feverishly throughout his life. Having a passion for scholarship, he grew tired of the pastorate and sought freedom in the academic world. He justified this transition by planning a defense of his faith in opposition to the increasingly scientific and secular world. According to his biographer E. S. Mills, “he would serve as the mediator between the old and the new so that the best of both worlds of learning and experience might be preserved.” In 1879 Ladd accepted a post in the department of philosophy at Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine. Two years later he moved to New Haven, Connecticut, and began his long association with Yale University. At Yale, Ladd was appointed professor of moral and mental philosophy....

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Lyman, Eugene William (04 April 1872–15 March 1948), philosopher of religion and theologian, was born in Cummington, Massachusetts, the son of Darwin Eugene Lyman and Julia Sarah Stevens. His “public-minded” father owned the village store and served for a time in the state legislature; his mother operated a millinery shop in connection with her husband’s store. Regularly, Julia Lyman read biblical stories, John Bunyan’s ...

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Pace, Edward Aloysius (03 July 1861–26 April 1938), Catholic priest and scholar, was born in Starke, Florida, the son of George Edward Pace, a Methodist planter and manufacturer of turpentine, and Margaret Kelly, a Catholic and daughter of the comptroller of the Port of Halifax, Nova Scotia. The first of eight children, Pace attended Duval High School in Jacksonville (1872–1876) and St. Charles College in Ellicott City, Maryland, a preparatory seminary (1876–1880, A.B.). He then became a seminarian at the North American College in Rome, studying philosophy (1880–1882) and theology (1882–1886, S.T.D.) at the Urbanian College. One of his professors was Francesco Satolli, a promoter of the Thomistic revival. Pace was ordained priest on 30 May 1885 for the Diocese of St. Augustine....

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Randolph, Paschal Beverly (08 October 1825–29 July 1875), physician, philosopher, and author, was born in New York City, the son of William Beverly Randolph, a plantation owner, and Flora Beverly, a barmaid. At the age of five or seven Randolph lost his mother to smallpox, and with her the only love he had known. Randolph later stated, “I was born ...

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Rawidowicz, Simon (11 October 1896–20 July 1957), scholar and philosopher of Jewish history, was born in Grayevo, Poland (then czarist Russia), the son of Haim Isaac Rawidowicz, a merchant, and Hanna Batya Rembelinka. Rawidowicz received a traditional elementary and secondary Jewish education, during the course of which he became attracted to the secular Jewish enlightenment (haskalah) and modern Hebrew literature. This led him to assume a significant role in the Hebrew cultural and educational life of the Jewish community of nearby Bialystok, where his family had moved in 1914 at the outbreak of the First World War....

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Tillich, Paul (20 August 1886–22 October 1965), Protestant theologian and philosopher, was born Paul Johannes Oskar Tillich in Starzeddel in the German state of East Prussia, the son of Johannes Tillich, a Lutheran pastor, and Wilhelmina Mathilde Dürselen. His father was appointed superintendent of the province of Schönfleiss-Neumark several years later, but in 1900 the family moved to Berlin. At age twelve Tillich’s formal education began at the Gymnasium in Königsberg-Neumark and continued at the Friedrich Wilhelm Gymnasium in Berlin with a classical curriculum. Through his study of Greek culture, Tillich developed an interest in the history of philosophy, especially the thought of Immanuel Kant, Johann G. Fichte, and Friedrich W. Schelling. He gradually turned away from the conservative Lutheran theology of his father and from his mother’s rigid moralism, a process that produced in him an intense “consciousness of guilt,” as he later put it in ...

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Varela y Morales, Félix Francisco (20 November 1788–18 February 1853), educator, writer, and pastor, was born in Havana, Cuba, the son of Francisco Varela y Pérez, a military officer, and María Josefa Morales. An orphan by age six, Varela was sent to live with his paternal grandfather, Don Bartolomé, military commander of a Cuban regiment stationed at St. Augustine in the Spanish colony of East Florida. Varela’s announcement at age fourteen that he wanted to be a priest was a disappointment to his military-oriented family, but he was sent to Havana, where he attended classes at San Carlos Seminary and the University of Havana. Varela earned his baccalaureate in 1806 and was ordained a Roman Catholic priest in 1811. He was assigned to teach philosophy at San Carlos....

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Watts, Alan Wilson (06 January 1915–16 November 1973), writer and lecturer on Eastern spirituality, was born in Chislehurst, Kent, England, the son of Laurence Wilson Watts, a middle-class businessman, and Emily Mary Buchan. He attended King’s College in Canterbury, but business reverses prevented his family from sending him to a university. Instead, Watts spent 1932 to 1938 in London working and reading voraciously on his own. His interest was increasingly drawn toward Eastern religions. He met Christmas Humphreys, leader of the Buddhist Society of Great Britain, and through him ...

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Wieman, Henry Nelson (19 August 1884–19 June 1975), philosopher of religion and theologian, was born in Rich Hill, midway between Joplin and Kansas City, Missouri, the son of William Henry Wieman, a Presbyterian minister, and Alma Morgan. The first of eight children, young Wieman attended church in his childhood, but he often stayed at home with his infant siblings and read poetry: Longfellow, Byron, and Tennyson. He was not taught religion and never joined most young Presbyterians in memorizing the “Shorter Catechism,” but Wieman recalled catching something by contagion from his parents, especially his mother, a woman of “profound piety and religious devotion,” who moved with “invincible propulsion,” like “a force of nature” (Wieman, “Intellectual Autobiography,” p. 6, and “Theocentric Religion,” p. 339). At fourteen he read ...