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Henry David Thoreau

Writer / Peacenik

Born: 12 July 1817
Died: 6 May 1862 (tuberculosis)
Birthplace: Concord, Massachusetts
Best known as: Author of Walden

Name at birth: David Henry Thoreau

A former schoolteacher, Henry David Thoreau spent two years in the 1840s living in a one-room hut beside Walden Pond in Massachusetts, where he studied nature and wrote peaceful essays and poems. His journal of these years became his most famous work: Walden, or a Life in the Woods (published 1854). Thoreau also wrote Civil Disobedience (1849), advocating non-violent resistance to unethical governments; the same notion was later advocated by Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr. Always a hit with college readers, Thoreau became a pop icon for anti-war and pro-environment groups late in the 20th century.

Extra credit: Thoreau was christened David Henry Thoreau, but switched to calling himself Henry David after graduating from Harvard... He was a lifelong bachelor... His single-room cabin at Walden Pond was 10 feet wide by 15 feet long... Thoreau spent two days and a night in jail -- July 23 and 24, 1846 -- after he refused to pay his poll tax as an act of civil disobedience... Among his sayings was, "Beware of enterprises that require new clothes."

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