John Locke, one of the most influential philosophers of his time, was born on August 29, 1632 in Wrington, a small village in England. His father, also named John, had been a lawyer as well as a military man who once served as a captain in the parliamentary army during the English civil war. Locke’s parents were both very devout Puritans and so to no surprise, Locke himself was raised with heavily Puritan beliefs. Because Locke’s father had many connections to the English government at the time of his growing up, John was given a rare gift at that time, an outstanding education.
In 1647, when Locke would have been only 15 years old, he was enrolled at the Westminster School in London. After only a very short time at this school, Locke had already earned the honor of being named a King's Scholar. This award was one that would surely pave the way for Locke to attend Christ Church in Oxford 5 years later.
At Christ Church Locke immersed himself deeply in many various subjects. An apparent interest in experimental science soon became one of Locke’s main focuses at this school. Very little is known of Locke’s early medical studies but Locke’s apparent knowledge of medicine led him to eventually meet Lord Ashley, who later became known as Earl of Shaftsbury. The two grew extremely close and Shaftsbury was able to persuade John Locke to move with him to London in order to become his own primary physician. John Locke’s responsibilities grew along with Shaftsbury's political stature. Locke was soon seen as indispensable in many domestic and political matters in the eyes of Shaftesbury, as well as many others.
Locke’s health had always been very much below average and he suffered dramatically in the harsh London climate. Locke eventually passed away on October 28, 1704. He had died in Essex where he lived for nearly a decade leading up to the end of his life.
Even after his death, John Locke’s influences live on in modern day society. Many of Locke’s writings have helped found modern Western philosophy and he is often referred to as the Father of English Psychology. Locke became arguably the most influential philosopher of his time, exercising profound influence on topics such as epistemology, education, and political philosophy.
Locke’s Essay Concerning Human Understanding, which was written in 1690, stated that experience is the only source of knowledge and that "we can have knowledge no farther than we have ideas" prompted by these experiences (Locke, 529). This practice came to be known as empiricism, a practice for which John Locke is widely known. In this essay, Locke invites the reader to “suppose the mind to be… white paper, void of all characters, without any ideas” (Locke, 87). By comparing the mind a blank sheet of paper, Locke is apparently claiming that without experience, our minds are completely void of ideas. Experience must “write” on our minds by giving each individual the means by which he or she can create their own ideas.