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Appletons' Cyclopædia of American Biography/Fiske, John (author)

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FISKE, John, author, b. in Hartford, Conn., 30 March, 1842. He is the only child of Edmund Brewster Green, of Smyrna, Del., and Mary Fiske Bound, of Middletown, Conn. The father was editor of newspapers in Hartford, New York, and Panama, where he died in 1852, and his widow married Edwin W. Stoughton, of New York, in 1855. The son's name was originally Edmund Fiske Green; in 1855 he took the name of his maternal great-grandfather, John Fiske. He lived at Middletown during childhood and until he entered Harvard, where he was graduated in 1863. He was graduated at the Harvard law-school in 1865, having been already admitted to the Suffolk bar in 1864, but has never practised law. His career as author began in 1861, with an article on “Mr. Buckle's Fallacies,” published in the “National Quarterly Review.” Since that time he has been a frequent contributor to American and British periodicals. In 1869-'71 he was university lecturer on philosophy at Harvard, in 1870 instructor in history there, and in 1872-'9 assistant librarian. On resigning the latter place in 1879 he was elected a member of the board of overseers, and at the expiration of the six-years' term was re-elected in 1885. Since 1881 he has lectured annually on American history at Washington university, St. Louis, Mo., and since 1884 has held a professorship of American history at that institution, but continues to make his home in Cambridge. He lectured on American history at University college, London, in 1879, and at the Royal institution of Great Britain in 1880. Since 1871 he has given many hundred lectures, chiefly upon American history, in the principal cities of the United States and Great Britain. The largest part of his life has been devoted to the study of history; but at an early age inquiries into the nature of human progress led him to a careful study of the doctrine of evolution, and it was as an expounder of this doctrine that he first became known to the public. In 1871 he arrived at the discovery of the causes of the prolonged infancy of mankind, and the part played by it in determining human development; and the importance of this contribution to the Darwinian theory, now generally admitted, was immediately recognized by Darwin and Spencer. His published books are: “Tobacco and Alcohol” (New York, 1868); “Myths and Myth-Makers” (Boston, 1872); “Outlines of Cosmic Philosophy, based on the Doctrine of Evolution” (2 vols., London, 1874; republished in Boston); “The Unseen World” (Boston, 1876); “Darwinism, and Other Essays” (London, 1879; new and enlarged edition, Boston, 1885); “Excursions of an Evolutionist” (Boston, 1883); “The Destiny of Man viewed in the Light of his Origin” (Boston, 1884); “The Idea of God as affected by Modern Knowledge” (Boston, 1885); “American Political Ideas viewed from the Standpoint of Universal History” (New York, 1885); and “The Critical Period of American History” (Boston, 1888).