American naturalist, philosopher, and author who is best known for Walden, a literary classic that advocates an uncomplicated life in natural surroundings. He was a key figure in the Transcendentalist movement and was also a prominent abolitionist.
He took courses in rhetoric, classics, philosophy, mathematics, and science at Harvard University, but refused to pay the five dollar fee for his diploma. He published his first essays in the early 1840s, at the urging of his friend and mentor, Ralph Waldo Emerson.
His famous political essay, Civil Disobedience, was published in 1849.
He and his two older siblings grew up in Concord, Massachusetts as the children of pencil maker John Thoreau and his wife, Cynthia Dunbar. Henry David Thoreau later built a house in the woods and lived alone in natural surroundings, an experiment that inspired his literary masterpiece, Walden.
His works influenced the literary development of Leo Tolstoy.