Ralph Waldo Emerson (American, 1803-1882)

Emerson is best remembered for leading the Transcendentalist movement in the US during the 1820s and 1830s. As described in Emerson’s essay “Nature,” Transcendentalism focused on the belief that the divine was suffused throughout the natural world and that the study of nature could therefore reveal the nature of God. In espousing these beliefs, Emerson and his contemporaries broke from the more accepted notion of God as separate from the natural world. In addition to being a philosopher and essayist, Emerson was also an accomplished poet whose style was deeply influential on poets, especially Walt Whitman. Despite the controversial nature of some of his views, especially when it came to his staunch abolitionism and religious philosophy, Emerson was effectively the leader of intellectualism in the US during his lifetime and is largely considered the most influential American author of the nineteenth century.