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Biographical Sketch

Charles Augustus Strong, a philosopher of the American school of critical realists, was born in Haverhill, Massachusetts on November 28, 1862. He was the eldest of six children born to the Rev. Augustus Hopkins Strong and Harriet Savage Strong. In 1865 Rev. Strong, a Baptist minister, became pastor of First Church in Cleveland, Ohio. During the years 1865 to 1872, the Strongs grew well-acquainted with the family of John D. Rockefeller, Sr., their fellow parishioners. In 1872 Rev. Strong was named President of the Rochester Theological Seminary in his home town of Rochester, New York. It was there that the young Charles Strong received his early schooling. In the fall of 1877, Strong enrolled at Phillips Exeter Academy in Exeter, New Hampshire. He excelled in the study of Latin and Greek, played football and baseball, and served as editor of the school paper. In July 1881, Strong sailed for Europe to attend the Gutersloh Gymnasium in Gutersloh, Germany. On returning to America in 1883, he entered the University of Rochester, where he obtained his A.B. in 1884 and the LL.D. in 1919. Fulfilling a long-standing desire, he enrolled in Harvard College in the fall of 1884, graduating with a second A.B. in 1885.

Strong's Harvard experience proved to be a turning point. He came under the influence of the pragmatist philosopher and psychologist William James, and with his fellow student and life-long friend, George Santayana, founded the Harvard Philosophical Club. After a year (1885-1886) at Rochester Theological Seminary, Strong embarked for Berlin on a James Walker Fellowship from Harvard, which, by mutual agreement, he shared with Santayana. By this time, Strong had suffered a loss of faith and rejected the ministerial career which his father had envisioned for him. In Berlin, he studied psychology, philosophy, and physiology with professors Karl Stumpf and Friedreich Paulsen.

From 1887 to 1889, Strong served as part-time instructor in philosophy at Cornell University, then returned to Europe for studies at Berlin, Paris, and Freiburg in 1889-1890. On March 22, 1889, he married Bessie Rockefeller (1866-1906), the eldest daughter of John D. Rockefeller, Sr. They had one child, Margaret Strong de Cuevas (1897-1985). In 1890 Strong became a docent at Clark University and in 1892 was appointed associate professor of psychology at the University of Chicago, where he remained until 1895. He served as lecturer in psychology at Columbia University from 1895 until 1903 and as professor of psychology from 1903 to 1910.

In 1903, Bessie Strong's failing health necessitated the Strongs' transfer to Paris, where Strong remained on leave without pay from Columbia University. After his wife's death on November 14, 1906, Strong settled in Fiesole, Italy in the villa known as "Le Balze." There, he raised his daughter and continued to study, write, and receive visitors. Strong died on January 23, 1940 in Fiesole.

Strong's writings include Why the Mind Has a Body (1903), The Origin of Consciousness (1918), Essays in Critical Realism (1920), The Wisdom of the Beasts (1921), A Theory of Knowledge (1923), Essays on the Natural Origin of the Mind (1930), and A Creed for Sceptics (1936).

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