Biography, Fun Facts, Gallery, Quotes and Works of John Locke

Early Life:

  • Birth: John Locke was born on August 29, 1632, in Wrington, Somerset, England.
  • Parents: His father, also named John Locke, was a lawyer and served as a captain in the English Civil War. His mother, Agnes Keene, died during his early childhood.
  • Education: Locke was educated at the Westminster School in London, where he was a King's Scholar. He later attended Christ Church, Oxford, where he initially studied classical languages and philosophy. However, he found the curriculum at Oxford unsatisfactory and became more interested in the works of contemporary philosophers such as RenĂ© Descartes.
Portrait of John Locke 1697
Portrait of John Locke 1697

Academic and Medical Career:

  • Medical Studies: Locke studied medicine and became a licensed physician in 1675. He studied under Thomas Sydenham, a prominent physician whose empirical approach to medicine greatly influenced Locke.
  • Oxford: Locke held various academic posts at Oxford, including Greek Lecturer, Rhetoric Lecturer, and Censor of Moral Philosophy.

Political Involvement:

  • Association with Shaftesbury: Locke served as a personal physician and advisor to Anthony Ashley Cooper, 1st Earl of Shaftesbury, a prominent political figure. This relationship introduced Locke to political life and the Whig party.
  • Exile and Return: Locke fled to the Netherlands in 1683 due to political pressures and his involvement in anti-monarchical activities. He returned to England after the Glorious Revolution of 1688, which installed William III and Mary II as co-monarchs and established a constitutional monarchy.

Later Years:

  • Locke continued to write and publish influential works on philosophy, politics, and education. He retired to Oates in High Laver, Essex, where he lived until his death on October 28, 1704.

Fun Facts

  1. Pseudonyms and Anonymity: Locke published some of his works anonymously or under pseudonyms to avoid political and religious persecution.
  2. Royal Society: Locke was elected a fellow of the Royal Society in 1668, reflecting his scientific interests and contributions.
  3. Multilingual: Locke was proficient in several languages, including Latin, Greek, French, and Dutch.
  4. Involvement in the Slave Trade: Locke's complex legacy includes his involvement with the Royal African Company, which was engaged in the transatlantic slave trade, highlighting the contradictions in his advocacy for liberty and human rights.
  5. Coin Designer: Locke contributed to the design of the new coinage in 1696, advocating for the use of milled edges to prevent clipping and counterfeiting.


  1. "All mankind... being all equal and independent, no one ought to harm another in his life, health, liberty, or possessions." –  Two Treatises of Government
  2. "The mind is furnished with ideas by experience alone." –  An Essay Concerning Human Understanding
  3. "Where there is no law, there is no freedom." – Two Treatises of Government
  4. "New opinions are always suspected, and usually opposed, without any other reason but because they are not already common." – An Essay Concerning Human Understanding
  5. "Education begins the gentleman, but reading, good company, and reflection must finish him." – Some Thoughts Concerning Education


1. "An Essay Concerning Human Understanding" (1690):
  • Summary: This foundational work in epistemology explores the nature of human knowledge. Locke argues that all knowledge is derived from sensory experience and reflection, and that the mind at birth is a blank slate (tabula rasa).
  • Key Ideas: Empiricism, the nature of ideas, primary and secondary qualities, personal identity, and the limits of human understanding.

2. "Two Treatises of Government" (1690):
  • Summary: The first treatise refutes the divine right of kings as advocated by Sir Robert Filmer in "Patriarcha." The second treatise outlines Locke's theories of civil society based on natural rights and the social contract, arguing for a government with the consent of the governed to protect life, liberty, and property.
  • Key Ideas: Natural rights, social contract theory, the right to rebellion, separation of powers, and the justification of private property.

3. "A Letter Concerning Toleration" (1689):
  • Summary: Locke argues for the separation of church and state and advocates for religious tolerance, asserting that civil government should not have authority over individual conscience and religious practices.
  • Key Ideas: Religious freedom, separation of church and state, the limits of toleration, and the role of government in protecting individual rights.

4. "Some Thoughts Concerning Education" (1693):
  • Summary: Locke provides a comprehensive guide on education, emphasizing the development of a child’s character and practical skills. He advocates for a balanced approach that includes physical health, moral education, and practical learning over rote memorization.
  • Key Ideas: Importance of early childhood education, character development, practical learning, physical exercise, and moral education.

5. "The Reasonableness of Christianity" (1695):
  • Summary: Locke examines Christianity from a rational perspective, arguing that its core teachings are reasonable and accessible to all people. He emphasizes the compatibility of faith and reason and argues against the imposition of complex theological doctrines.
  • Key Ideas: Rationality of Christian beliefs, simplicity of core doctrines, the role of reason in faith, and the importance of accessible religious teachings.

Influence and Legacy

John Locke's work has had a profound and lasting impact on Western philosophy, political theory, and education. His ideas on natural rights and government influenced the American and French Revolutions and the development of modern democratic states. Locke's emphasis on empiricism laid the groundwork for the scientific method and modern epistemology. His educational theories continue to shape contemporary educational practices, emphasizing the importance of a well-rounded and practical education.