Immanuel Kant


(1724-1804) was born at Köningsberg in East Prussia (today's Russia), where his grandfather had emigrated from Scotland. The school he attended raised children according to the tenets of Pietism, a 17th century Christian evangelical movement emphasizing devotional meetings, Bible study, and personal religious experience. His mother, who had no formal education, and his father, who made saddles for a living, wanted him to have a college education and so in 1740, when he was sixteen, they enrolled him into the University of Köningsberg. At the time, the philosophy of Leibniz and the science of Newton dominated not only the University but much of continental Europe; many, perhaps most, scholars had come to believe that philosophy, science and mathematics would soon integrate into one complete system of knowledge.
By all accounts Kant was extremely studious and competent but showed no particular flair or originality; certainly his teachers had no idea that he would one day be regarded as one of the most important thinkers of modern times...

His personal life was anything but illustrious. He never married. He did not socialize, though he was known for his extreme politeness and graciousness. Not even once during his entire life did he venture outside of town. The only time he went anywhere was for his daily walk at half past four, walking up and down his little street exactly eight times. He would give his lectures; he would come home. he would go for his walk. His neighbors considered him a charming, if rather reclusive, eccentric.

The book [Kant first published], the Critique of Pure Reason , turned out to be beyond any doubt one of the major achievements in philosophy. Published in 1781, it brought Kant instant fame.
bio by Daniel Kolak in Lovers of Wisdom
(Wadsworth, 1997)