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His father, also named John, was a legal clerk and served with the Parliamentary forces in the English Civil War.
His family was well-to-do, but not of particularly high social or economic standing. Locke spent his childhood in the West Country and as a teenager was sent to Westminster School in London. Locke was successful at Westminster and earned a place at Christ Church, Oxford.
He was to remain in Oxford from until Although he had little appreciation for the traditional scholastic philosophy he learned there, Locke was successful as a student and after completing his undergraduate degree he held a series of administrative and academic posts in the college.
One of his earliest substantive works, the Essays on the Law of Nature, was developed in the course of his teaching duties. Locke read widely in these fields, participated in various experiments, and became acquainted with Robert Boyle and many other notable natural philosophers.
He also undertook the normal course of education and training to become a physician. In London, Locke continued to pursue his interests in medicine and natural philosophy. He formed a close working relationship with Thomas Sydenham, who later became one the most famous physicians of the age.
He made a number of contacts within the newly formed Royal Society and became a member in He also acted as the personal physician to Lord Ashley.
Indeed, on one occasion Locke participated in a very delicate surgical operation which Ashley credited with saving his life. Ashley was one of the most prominent English politicians at the time.
Through his patronage Locke was able to hold a series of governmental posts. The two earliest drafts of that work date from He was to continue work on this project intermittentlyfor nearly twenty years.
Locke travelled in France for several years starting in When he returned to England it was only to be for a few years. The political scene had changed greatly while Locke was away.
It was around this time that Locke composed his most famous political work, the Two Treatises Concerning Government. Although the Two Treatises would not be published until they show that he had already solidified his views on the nature and proper form of government.
While there Locke travelled a great deal sometimes for his own safety and worked on two projects. First, he continued work on the Essay. Second, he wrote a work entitled Epistola de Tolerantia, which was published anonymously in Following the Glorious Revolution of Locke was able to return to England.
He published both the Essay and the Two Treatises the second anonymously shortly after his return. He initially stayed in London but soon moved to the home of Francis and Damaris Masham in the small village of Oates, Essex.
Damaris Masham, who was the daughter of a notable philosopher named Ralph Cudworth, had become acquainted with Locke several years before. During this period Locke kept busy working on politics, toleration, philosophy, economics, and educational theory.
Locke engaged in a number of controversies during his life, including a notable one with Jonas Proast over toleration. Stillingfleet, in addition to being a powerful political and theological figure, was an astute and forceful critic.
The two men debated a number of the positions in the Essay in a series of published letters. In his later years Locke devoted much of his attention to theology. His major work in this field was The Reasonableness of Christianity, published again anonymously in This work was controversial because Locke argued that many beliefs traditionally believed to be mandatory for Christians were unnecessary.
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