William James
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William James (1842 - 1910)

William James
Born in New York City, New York County, New York, United Statesmap
Ancestors ancestors
Husband of — married 10 Jul 1878 in Boston, Suffolk, Massachusetts, United Statesmap
Descendants descendants
Died at age 68 in Chocorua, Tamworth, Carroll, New Hampshire, United Statesmap
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Profile last modified | Created 19 Oct 2009
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Notables Project
William James is Notable.

William James (January 11, 1842 – August 26, 1910) was an American philosopher and psychologist who was also trained as a physician. The first educator to offer a psychology course in the United States,

James was one of the leading thinkers of the late nineteenth century and is believed by many to be one of the most influential philosophers the United States has ever produced, while others have labelled him the "Father of American psychology".

James wrote widely on many topics, including epistemology, education, metaphysics, psychology, religion, and mysticism. Among his most influential books are Principles of Psychology, which was a groundbreaking text in the field of psychology, Essays in Radical Empiricism, an important text in philosophy, and The Varieties of Religious Experience, which investigated different forms of religious experience.

He married Alice Gibbens in 1878. They had a son William (Bill) 1882-1961 - an artist.

Following his January, 1907 retirement from Harvard, James continued to write and lecture, publishing Pragmatism, A Pluralistic Universe, and The Meaning of Truth. James was increasingly afflicted with cardiac pain during his last years. It worsened in 1909. He sailed to Europe in the spring of 1910 to take experimental treatments which proved unsuccessful, and returned home on August 18. His heart failed him on August 26, 1910 at his home in Chocorua, New Hampshire. He was buried in the family plot in Cambridge Cemetery, Cambridge, Massachusetts.

In his book titled “Motivation and Personality”, Abraham Maslow described William James as a ‘self-actualized person’. Such ‘individuals’ have a strong sense of the interconnectedness of all things, having peak experiences at one with the universe, stronger and calmer than ever before, filled with light, beauty, goodness. The self-actualizer seems to constantly renew appreciation of life's basic goods: A sunset or a flower will be experienced as intensely time after time as it was at first. There is an "innocence of vision", like that of an artist or child: Because they are not trapped in the mind by thoughts based on memories, but have gone beyond to an awakened state of consciousness. There are many more characteristics of self-actualized people as a consequence, exhibited by William James.

Readers of Susan E. Gunter’s Alice in Jamesland, a fascinating new biography of the formidable wife of William James, which ends in 1922 with her death, will be eager to know, for example, what happened to Alice’s youngest son, Aleck, born in 1890, of whom Gunter paints a tender portrait. Of all of the family, he seemed the most vulnerable and the most sweetly indifferent to the legacy of the name he had inherited. Despite his father’s strict views, Aleck seemed to remain a free spirit.

In Lewis’s book we discover that he became a painter, which was what he wanted to be, and that he remained happily married to the woman of his choice, despite his mother’s early disapproval of her, and that, while his brother Harry “made money” and the next brother Billy “married money,” Aleck devoted his life to his art.


  • Marriage 10 July 1878 (NEHGS; with image of original record): Massachusetts: Vital Records, 1841-1910. (From original records held by the Massachusetts Archives. Online database: AmericanAncestors.org, New England Historic Genealogical Society, 2004.); https://www.americanancestors.org/DB191/i/10411/82/128448299 (by subscription)
  • Death 26 August 1910 (NEHGS; with image of original record): New Hampshire: Births, Deaths and Marriages, 1654-1969. (From microfilmed records. Online database: AmericanAncestors.org, New England Historic Genealogical Society, 2014.); https://www.americanancestors.org/DB516/i/14038/3292/253910004 (by subscription)
  • Maslow, A. (1970). Motivation and Personality (2nd ed.). New York, NY: Harper.

See also:

  • Birth, family, death, and burial (with image of gravestone): Find a Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com : accessed 14 September 2020), memorial page for William James (11 Jan 1842–26 Aug 1910), Find a Grave Memorial no. 540, citing Cambridge Cemetery, Cambridge, Middlesex County, Massachusetts, USA ; Maintained by Find A Grave; https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/540/william-james

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"Act as if what you do makes a difference. It does." William James is tying to say that you should try your hardest and be serious on whatyou do because it will make a difference for someone else or society.
posted 1 Nov 2009 by deryl lam
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Chris Marvin "William James" Philosophers. 2000 <http://www.trincoll.edu/depts/phil/philo/phils/wjames.html>
posted by deryl lam
Abby Wolf "William James" Cameo Biography. New York. 2005 <http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/masterpiece/americancollection/american/genius/william_bio.html>
posted by deryl lam
R Goodman "William James" Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Stanford University. 2006 <plato.stanford.edu/entries/james/>

posted by deryl lam

This week's featured connections are from the War of the Roses: William is 18 degrees from Margaret England, 16 degrees from Edmund Beaufort, 15 degrees from Margaret Stanley, 18 degrees from John Butler, 17 degrees from Henry VI of England, 18 degrees from Louis XI de France, 17 degrees from Isabel of Clarence, 17 degrees from Edward IV of York, 17 degrees from Thomas Fitzgerald, 17 degrees from Richard III of England, 15 degrees from Henry Stafford and 16 degrees from Perkin Warbeck on our single family tree. Login to see how you relate to 33 million family members.