THE philosopher's family was already well-known and distinguished when he was born in New York City on January 11, 1842. His grandfather, William James, a Protestant immigrant from Ireland, became a successful merchant in the New World and acquired millions. His father, Henry James, Sr. ( 1811-1882) was a man of considerable erudition, writer, lecturer, and as a follower of Charles Fourier was connected with "Brook Farm." And his younger brother Henry ( 1843-1916) was yet to become famous as a novelist.
William was introduced to traveling in infancy, for his parents made regular visits to Europe. Long periods of education were spent in Switzerland, France and England. Only in 1861 did the family settle down in Boston as much as it could settle down. By that time William was big enough to go to college. His choice was Harvard, and in Harvard he remained, on and off, for forty-five years, dealing in overlapping succession with the sciences of chemistry, biology, medicine, psychology, and finally philosophy.
However, the studies were often interrupted. In 1865 James joined an expedition to the Amazon, headed by Agassiz. In 1867 he sailed for a long stay in Europe, mainly in Germany, the primary purpose of which was to improve his health apparently seriously affected by some psychosomatic disorder. He returned free from uncertainty and melancholy, and an enthusiastic convert to Renouvier's doctrine of moral freedom.
It was at this time that he received an appointment to teach physiology at Harvard ( 1872). But gradually he shifted his interest to psychology ( 1876). His personality as well as health steadied more and more, especially after marriage to Alice Gibbens ( 1878).
James continued to travel from time to time, but now largely for professional reasons: to attend meetings of learned societies, to lecture, to meet noted scientists and thinkers, among them Charles Renouvier, Ernst Mach, Karl Stumpf, and the circle of British philosophers connected with the Mind ( 1880). He also