Joseph Marie, baron de Gérando, 1772 - 1842

Joseph Marie de Gérando was a French legal scholar, educational theorist, and historian of philosophy whose writings inspired the New England Transcendentalists.  He lectured on moral philosophy at the Lycée de Paris and published a monumental three-volume treatise on the history of philosophy, Histoire comparée des systèmes de philosophie, considérés relativement aux principes des connaisances humaines (1804).  This work was frequently consulted by Transcendentalists such as Henry David Thoreau, Margaret Fuller, and especially Ralph Waldo Emerson, who commented extensively in his journal on de Gérando's writing in support of his own search for a "First Philosophy" and as an indispensable part of the framework for his first book, Nature (1836).  Elizabeth Palmer Peabody drew upon de Gérando's Le visiteur du pauvre (1820) and Du perfectionnement morale, ou de l'éducation de soi-même (1824) for her approach to social reform and educational theory.  As she translated these works into English in the 1830s, other Transcendentalists were attracted to de Gérando--George Ripley wrote a long review, "Degerando on Self-Education," in the Christian Examiner, and Amos Bronson Alcott fused his principles with those of Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi in his early articles on education.