Ralph Waldo Emerson is Born

Essayist, philosopher, and poet Ralph Waldo Emerson was born in Boston on May 25, 1803.

Son and grandson of Protestant divines, Emerson attended Harvard College and Harvard Divinity School, entering the Unitarian ministry in 1829.

A popular, if unconventional preacher, young Emerson's sermons consisted of personal reflections on spirituality and virtue. He avoided expounding doctrine or engaging in scriptural exegesis. Increasingly dissatisfied with traditional protestant theology, Emerson resigned from the ministry in 1832. By the end of the decade, however, he was the leading exponent of transcendentalism, a philosophy that maintains the universality of creation, upholds the intrinsic goodness of man, and grounds truth in personal insight.

Ralph Waldo Emerson (May 25, 1803 – April 27, 1882) was an American essayist, philosopher and poet, best remembered for leading the Transcendentalist movement of the early 19th century. His teachings directly influenced the growing New Thought movement of the mid 1800s, while he was seen as a champion of individualism and prescient critic of the countervailing pressures of society.

Emerson gradually moved away from the religious and social beliefs of his contemporaries, formulating and expressing the philosophy of Transcendentalism in his 1836 essay, Nature. As a result of this ground breaking work he gave a speech entitled The American Scholar in 1837, which Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr. considered to be America's "Intellectual Declaration of Independence".

Considered one of the great orators of the time, Emerson's enthusiasm and respect for his audience enraptured crowds. His support for abolitionism late in life created controversy, and at times he was subject to abuse from crowds while speaking on the topic, however this was not always the case. When asked to sum up his work, he said his central doctrine was "the infinitude of the private man."

There is a time in every man's education when he arrives at the conviction that envy is ignorance; that imitation is suicide; that he must take himself for better, for worse, as his portion;…The power which resides in him is new in nature, and none but he knows what that is which he can do, nor does he know until he has tried. ”

— Ralph Waldo Emerson, "Self Reliance"