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John Fiske


FISKE, JOHN (1842-1901), American historical, philosophi cal, and scientific writer, was born in Hartford (Conn.), March 3o, 1842, and died at Gloucester (Mass.), July 4, 1901. Before entering college he had read widely in English literature, history, and ancient and modern languages. He graduated at Harvard in 1863, continuing to study languages and philosophy with zeal; he spent two years in the Harvard Law School and opened an office in Boston, but soon devoted the greater portion of his time to writing for periodicals. With the exception of one year, he re sided at Cambridge (Mass.), from graduation until death. In 1869 he gave a course of lectures at Harvard on the Positive philosophy; next year he was history tutor. In 1871 he delivered 35 lectures on the doctrine of evolution, afterwards revised and expanded as Outlines of Cosmic Philosophy (1874) ; and between 1872 and 1879 he was assistant librarian. After that time he de voted himself to literary work and lecturing on history. Nearly all of his books were first given to the public in the form of lec tures or magazine articles, revised and collected under a general title, such as Myths and Myth-Makers (1872), Darwinism (1879), Excursions of an Evolutionist (1883) , The Destiny of Man, Viewed in the Light of His Origin (1884), The Idea of God as affected by Modern Knowledge (1885), and A Century of Science He did much by the lucidity of his style to spread a knowledge of Darwin and Spencer in America, and through his strong faith vanquished prejudice and demonstrated that religion and evolu tion were not incompatible. His Outlines of Cosmic Philosophy, while setting forth the Spencerian system, made psychological and sociological additions of original matter, in some respects an ticipating Spencer's later conclusions. Fiske's reputation was due to his historical writings; which were chiefly devoted to studies, in a unified general manner, of separate yet related episodes in American history.

They form a nearly complete colonial history, as follows : The Discovery of America, with some Account of Ancient America, and the Spanish Conquest (1892) ; Old Virginia and her Neigh bours (1897) ; The Beginnings of New England; or, The Puritan Theocracy in its Relations to Civil and Religious Liberty (1889) ; Dutch and Quaker Colonies in America (1899) ; The American Revolution (1891) ; and The Critical Period of American History, 1783-89 (1888). The minute investigations of more recent his torians are, however, somewhat supplanting these ; the multiplicity of Fiske's interests prevented thorough mastery of any one field.

See J. S. Clark, The Life and Letters of John Fiske (1917) and "John Fiske, Evolutionist" in Lyman Abbott's Silhouettes of My Contemporaries (1921) .

history, america, american and philosophy