EDMUND FISK GREENE was born on March 20, 1842, in Hartford, Connecticut, but he was not a lucky child. He lost his father at the age of ten and, when his mother re-married, the boy was sent to live with his maternal grandparents in Middletown, Conn. It was at this time that his name was legally changed to John Fiske. John had always been bright, but now he became also studious and amazingly precocious. Before he was twenty, he could read in many languages, including German, French, Spanish, Portuguese, and Dutch as well as Sanskrit, Hebrew, Greek, and Latin. He was well read in philosophy before he reached the age of ten.
While in Harvard University ( 1860-3) he became acquainted with the writings of Herbert Spencer and published several articles on evolution. Unfortunately for him, the doctrine was believed at the time to undermine religious and moral traditions and was, therefore, quite unpopular in the academic circles; naturally enough, his outspoken interest in evolution, and particularly his writing on the topic, provoked sharp disapproval among his teachers.
As a result, John found little encouragement to pursue a scholarly career and decided to become a lawyer. His chosen field had no attraction to him, however, and he was very glad indeed when Harvard offered him the position of assistant librarian ( 1872). The following year he visited England where he met most outstanding evolutionists, including Darwin, Spencer, Huxley, Lewes, and Tyndall.
Fiske's first book, Outlines of Cosmic Philosophy ( 1874), turned out to be an immediate success, and he soon received a number of invitations to speak. As a lecturer, he was extraordinarily in demand, and he found himself before long obliged to choose between keeping his job and continuing his speaking engagements. He chose the latter course, quit the job at Harvard, and devoted himself exclusively to writing and lecturing. In quick succession he published several semi-popular books, but had no time