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Hobbes, Thomas (1588–1679)

Thomas Hobbes was born in Malmesbury, Wiltshire, England, and died in Hardwick Hall, Derbyshire, England. He wrote on physics, optics, and mathematics, but scholars today best know his political writings. His Leviathan (1651) and other political works provided a forceful defense for an absolutist state and more generally influenced the development of social contract theory, liberalism, and utilitarianism.

Hobbes was born into a family of modest means. His father, a poor clergyman, abandoned his family when Hobbes was young, and a wealthy uncle provided for Hobbes's education. At age 15 years, Hobbes enrolled in Magdalen Hall in Oxford, and after graduating in 1608, he took a job as secretary and tutor in the household of William Cavendish, the future Earl of Devonshire. Cavendish's family and friends ...

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