William James, 1842 - 1910

portrait of William James
Portrait by Ellen Emmet Rand

Born: 11 January 1842, New York City
Died: 26 August 1910, Chocorua, New Hampshire

The home of Henry James, Sr, a Swedenborgian theologian, was noted for its intellectual activity. A host of literary figures visited, Ralph Waldo Emerson was William' godfather. Henry Junior, who would become a well-known novelist, was born the following year and the two boys were largely educated together. Henry Senior seemed to be regularly unhappy with their education, rarely leaving them in one school for more than a year, much of their education was in Europe. William trained as an artist but entered Harvard's Lawrence Scientific School in 1861, then switched to medicine in 1864. Between illness and European travel, he didn't earn his M.D. degree until 1869, never practiced, and at thirty was still living at home. The president of Harvard, a family friend, secured him a position as an instructor in physiology (1872) and the classroom finally fired some interest for him. He was named assistant professor of psychology in 1876, assistant professor of philosophy in 1881, full professor in 1886, back to psychology with an endowed chair in 1889, then back to philosophy again in 1897. He was frequently ill with various physical complaints and neurasthenia, so his actual teaching was interrupted numerous times, including great depressions resulting from criticism of each of his books. By all accounts his classes were highly regarded and his students included a long list of notables, including Theodore Roosevelt and George Santayana. After retiring from Harvard in 1907 (his final class was standing room only), he developed heart problems, went one more time to Europe in hope of finding a cure, and returned to his New Hampshire home where he died. The autopsy revealed an enlarged heart.

Biography from Wikipedia and Emory University

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