Herbert Spencer

By. Zach Stepler


  • Born in Derby, England on April 27, 1820
  • He was the oldest of nine kids but the only one to survive infancy
  • At a young age Spencer showed opposition to authority and independence
  • He trained as a civil engineer for railways but took up journalism in his 20's
  • Worked as a writer and subeditor for The Economist financial weekly
  • Defended land naturalization and proposed a policy of laissez-faire in his early writings
  • He finished his first book titled "Social Statics, or the Conditions Essential to Human Happiness" in 1851
  • He inherited a small sum of money following his uncles death in 1853 which allowed him to focus solely on his writings
  • Published his second book titled "The Principles of Psychology" in 1855
  • Died December 8, 1903 after battling a long illness


  • Herbert Spencer was best known for applying the evolutionary theory to philosophy, psychology, and sociology.
  • Today he is most well known for his defense of natural rights
  • His views were influenced greatly by the work of Auguste Comte
  • Spencer, not Darwin was the person who made the phrase "survival of the fittest"
  • He disagreed that evolution was based on characteristics and the principle of natural selection
  • He believed that the "whole" was more dependent on its smaller parts rather than vice versa
  • Although he was agnostic he would state that we cannot know one way or the other whether religion is true or not
  • Spencer believed that human society has the same evolutionary principals as organisms do
  • He stated that for human beings to grow they need as little artificial restrictions as possible such as freedom
  • Spencer thought that compassion, or love, beyond family had just recently started to take place