My VIP for this week is John Locke simply because I am studying some of his writings this week and want to know more about him. He was born on August 29, 1632, “in a small thatched cottage by the church in Wrington, Somerset, about 12 miles from Bristol.” He was baptized the same day. His father, John Locke, was a country lawyer and clerk to the Justices of the Peace in Chew Magna. He also served during the English Civil War as a captain of the cavalry for the Parliamentarian forces. His mother was Agnes Keene, and both parents were Puritans. The family moved soon after Locke’s birth about seven miles south of Bristol to a market town by the name of Pensford. Locke grew up there in a rural Tudor house in Belluton.
Locke went to the prestigious Westminster School in London in 1647. After he finished there, he went to Christ Church, Oxford in 1652. He was 20 years old. He received a bachelor’s degree in February 1656 and a master’s degree in June 1658. In 1675 he obtained a bachelor of medicine. Lord Anthony Ashley Cooper, 1st Earl of Shaftesbury, persuaded Locke to work for him as his personal physician.
Locke’s medical knowledge was put to the test when Shaftesbury’s liver infection became life-threatening. Locke coordinated the advice of several physicians and was probably instrumental in persuading Shaftesbury to undergo surgery (then life-threatening itself) to remove the cyst. Shaftesbury survived and prospered, crediting Locke with saving his life.
Locke dabbled in politics and fled his country a time or two. He worked in medicine, but he is better known for his writings and his influence on the Enlightenment.
[He] was an English philosopher and physician, widely regarded as one of the most influential of Enlightenment thinkers and commonly known as the “Father of Liberalism.” Considered one of the first of the British empiricists, following the tradition of Sir Francis Bacon, he is equally important to social contract theory. His work greatly affected the development of epistemology and political philosophy. His writings influenced Voltaire and Jean-Jacques Rousseau, many Scottish Enlightenment thinkers, as well as the American revolutionaries. His contributions to classical republicanism and liberal theory are reflected in the United States Declaration of Independence.
Locke lived during the time of the English Restoration, the Great Plague of London, and the Great Fire of London. He saw the beginnings of constitutional monarchy and parliamentary democracy. He died on October 28, 1704, and is buried in the churchyard of the village of High Laver, east of Harlow in Essex. He never married nor had children.