The Library of Nineteenth-Century Photography

Herbert Spencer

Herbert Spencer

A carte-de-visite portrait of the English philosopher, biologist and sociologist Herbert Spencer (1820-1903).

Spencer developed an all-embracing conception of evolution as the progressive development of the physical world, biological organisms, the human mind, and human culture and societies. An enthusiastic exponent of the theory of evolution, his ideas predate those of Darwin. As a polymath, he contributed to a wide range of subjects, including ethics, religion, anthropology, economics, political theory, philosophy, biology, sociology, and psychology. During his lifetime he achieved tremendous authority, mainly in English-speaking academia. According to one biographer, ‘The only other English philosopher to have achieved anything like such widespread popularity was Bertrand Russell, and that was in the 20th century.’ He has also been called ‘the single most famous European intellectual in the closing decades of the nineteenth century’ although his influence declined sharply after 1900.

Today Spencer is best remembered for coining the concept ‘survival of the fittest’ which he did in Principles of Biology (1864), after reading Charles Darwin's On the Origin of Species.

Photographed by the London Stereoscopic and Photographic Company.


Code: 124360
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