Henry David Thoreau was an American philosopher, born on July 12, 1817 in Massachusetts. The man showed an analytical nature at an early age, often being called the "Judge" by his peers and enrolling in Harvard College at sixteen. While most Harvard graduates pursued careers in law, business, or medicine, Thoreau was uninterested in these occupations and started teaching at a public school in Concord. After Ralph Waldo Emerson took a special interest in him, Thoreau took part in a circle of influential thinkers that included Margaret Fuller and Julian Hawthorne.
Shortly thereafter, Thoreau began contributing essays and poems for publication. Initially, his thoughts followed Transcendentalism, a school of thought promoted by his peers. After several years of doing odd jobs, Thoreau decided to focus almost solely on his writing. For two years, he lived in a forest near Walden Pond, a period in his life that would form the inspiration for Walden, one of his most famous works based on Thoreau's ideology of simple living. Thoreau's other beliefs included a resistance to civil obedience in the event of moral opposition and a strong moral disagreement with slavery. His works comprise some of the sources for modern day environmentalism, and he continued to advocate his philosophies through published journals and poetry until his death in 1862.
For insight into how Thoreau believed government should be treated, try Civil Disobedience, which posits that personal conscience should take precedence over civil law. This and Walden, two of Thoreau's most famous works, are available as audio MP3 downloads. If you're interested in more of Thoreau's essays try out his seasonal Autumnal Tints available on audio download.