Spencer, Herbert, 1820-1903

Alternative names
Birth 1820-04-27
Death 1903-12-08

Biographical notes:

Born 1820; educated at Hinton Charterhouse near Bath, 1833-1836; assistant schoolmaster at Derby, 1837; worked as a draftsman and engineer during the building of the Birmingham and Gloucester Railway, 1837-1841; sub-editor of the Pilot , the organ of the Complete Suffrage Movement, 1844; occupied himself anew with engineering, 1844-1846, and experimented with mechanical inventions, 1846-1847; sub-editor of The Economist in London, 1848-1853; visited house of John Chapman, the advanced publisher, 1849, and became part of a literary circle which included George Eliot, Huxley and Tyndall; published Social Statics (1851), advocating an extreme individualism; contributed articles to the Leader , Westminster Review , and other periodicals, collecting many of these in Essays (1857, 1863, and 1864); published Principles of Psychology (1855), but during the writing of this book his health gave way, and was never fully restored; in 1858 he planned a system of synthetic philosophy, covering metaphysics, biology, psychology, sociology, and ethics, which broke down about 1865, though he published Principles (1862) and Principles of Biology (1864 and 1867); wrote Education (1861), a treatise aiming at a natural development of the child's intelligence, which became a leading textbook; in order to deal with the principles of sociology he employed assistants to collect systematically large masses of facts, of which eight volumes under general title of Descriptive Sociology were issued by 1881, while additional volumes appeared after Spencer's death; he wrote extensively on philosophical and social issues, including Principles of Sociology (1876, 1882, and 1896), Principles of Ethics (1892 and 1893); formed with Frederic Harrison and John Morley and others an Anti-Aggression League, 1882; died 1903.

From the guide to the SPENCER, Herbert, 1820-1903, philosopher, [1838-1839], (British Library of Political and Economic Science)

Herbert Spencer was an English philosopher and theorist. He was born and raised in Derby, privately educated by his uncle, a schoolmaster in Bath, and worked a variety of jobs, including civil engineer and editor. He began publishing essays, and later books, on various subjects, gradually acquiring the reputation as one of the greatest thinkers of his generation. His influential and wide-ranging works include contributions in ethics, metaphysics, grammar, political theory, biology, and psychology. He anticipated much of Darwin's Theory of Evolution, coining the phrase "Survival of the fittest," and applied the theory to societies to help pioneer the science of sociology. He was also critical of religion, preferring science, and was considered one of the leading theorists of capitalism.

From the description of Herbert Spencer letter to Dear sirs, 1892 May 12. (Pennsylvania State University Libraries). WorldCat record id: 71225932


From the description of Herbert Spencer correspondence, 1867-1869. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 70980501

Herbert Spencer was born in Derby in 1820. He was educated at Hinton Charterhouse near Bath and returned to Derby at the age of 17 to take up a post as an assistant schoolmaster. After three months, he became a civil engineer with the London and Birmingham Railway. In 1842, he was appointed honorary secretary of the Complete Suffrage Movement - allied to the Chartist agitation - and became editor of The Pilot , the newspaper of the Chartist movement. He became sub-editor of The Economist in 1848 and in 1850 published his first book, Social Statistics , detailing theories of evolution. In 1855, he published his second book, The Principles of Psychology . From 1860 to 1893, Spencer worked on a series of volumes with the intention of applying evolution to all the sciences and developing an all-inclusive philosophical theory. His volumes covered biology, psychology, sociology, and ethics. He died in 1903.

From the guide to the Spencer, Herbert, 1830-1936, (Senate House Library, University of London)

English philosopher.

From the description of Autograph signature to 7 dictated letters : to Prof. Knight, 1872 Dec. 9-1900 Jul. 26. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 270580522

English economist, philosopher, scientist.

From the description of Letters to Robert McClure and Miss Thickle, 1895, n.d. (University of Virginia). WorldCat record id: 49803225

From the description of Letters to Robert McClure and Miss Thickle [manuscript], 1895, n.d. (University of Virginia). WorldCat record id: 647923528


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  • Engineering
  • Psychology
  • Transport
  • Railway transport
  • Philosophers--19th century--Correspondence
  • Transport infrastructure


  • Philosophers


  • London England (as recorded)
  • Gloucester Gloucestershire England (as recorded)
  • Great Britain (as recorded)
  • Avon England (as recorded)