John Locke was born on August 29, 1632, in Warington, a village in Somerset, England. In
1646 he went to Westminster school, and in 1652 to Christ Church in Oxford. In 1659 he was
elected to a senior studentship, and tutored at the college for a number of years. Still, contrary
to the curriculum, he complained that he would rather be studying Descartes than Aristotle. In
1666 he declined an offer of preferment, although he thought at one time of taking up clerical
work. In 1668 he was elected a fellow of the Royal Society, and in 1674 he finally graduated
as a bachelor of medicine. In 1675 he was appointed to a medical studentship at the college.
He owned a home in Oxford until 1684, until his studentship was taken from him by royal
Locke's mentor was Robert Boyle, the leader of the Oxford scientific group. Boyle's
mechanical philosophy saw the world as reducible to matter in motion. Locke learned about
atomism and took the terms "primary and secondary qualities" from Boyle. Both Boyle and
Locke, along with Newton, were members of the English Royal Society. Locke became
friends with Newton in 1688 after he had studied Newton's Principia Mathematica
Philosophiae Naturalis. It was Locke's work with the Oxford scientists that gave him a critical
perspective when reading Descartes. Locke admired Descartes as an alternative to the
Aristotelianism dominant at Oxford. Descartes' "way of ideas" was a major influence on
Locke's An Essay Concerning Human Understanding.
Locke studied medicine with Sydenham, one of the most notable English physicians of the
17th century. His skills in medicine led to an accidental encounter with Lord Ashley (later to
become the Earl of Shaftesbury) in1666, which would mark a profound change in his career.
Locke became a member of Shaftesbury's household and assisted him in business, political
and domestic matters. Locke remained at Shaftesbury's side when the Earl was made Lord
Chancellor in 1672, making presentations to benefices, and eventually becoming his secretary
to the board of trade until 1675, when Shaftesbury lost his title.
Locke's ideas on freedom of religion and the rights of citizens were considered a challenge to
the King's authority by the English government and in 1682 Locke went into exile in
Holland. It was here that he completed An Essay Concerning Human Understanding, and
published Epistola de Tolerantia in Latin. The English government tried to have Locke, along
with a group of English revolutionaries with whom he was associated, extradited to England.
Locke's position at Oxford was taken from him in 1684. In 1685, while Locke was still in
Holland, Charles II died and was succeeded by James II who was eventually overthrown by
rebels (after more than one attempt). William of Orange was invited to bring a Dutch force to
England, while James II went into exile in France. Known as the Glorious Revolution of
1688, this event marks the change in the dominant power in English government from King
to Parliament. In 1688 Locke took the opportunity to return to England on the same ship that