Throughout the world, the name John Dewey has become synonymous with educational reform. Born in 1859, Dewey was the founder of the philosophical movement known as pragmatism, a school of thought that emphasizes a practical approach to problem solving through experience. In addition to educational reform, Dewey's work also served as inspiration for various allied movements, including empiricism, humanism, naturalism, and contextualism. For over five decades, Dewey was the voice for a liberal and progressive democracy in the U.S. He was also a founding member of the NAACP and ACLU. For his seminal contributions to nearly every topic in philosophy and psychology, Dewey was elected President of the American Psychological Association and President of the American Philosophical Association in 1899 and 1905, respectively. By the time Dewey passed away in 1952, the 92-year-old had published about a thousand combined books, essays, articles, and other writings that continue to shape policies around the globe.
In 1882, Dewey entered Johns Hopkins University to study philosophy. Dewey, who was 22 at the time, chose Hopkins as the place for his advanced training because unlike most American university philosophy programs, Hopkins’ program emphasized new German scientific research methods, rather than religion, as the best way to arrive at the truth. After being denied a fellowship from the University, Dewey relied on his aunt, who loaned him $500 to get him started. At the suggestion of his doctoral advisor, George Sylvester Morris, Dewey absorbed some undergraduate teaching duties during his second semester at Hopkins. This work with students in history and philosophy was a major boon to the struggling graduate student since it paid $150 per semester! During his second year, Hopkins finally awarded Dewey a fellowship, which made concentrating on his studies much easier. In 1884, he received his PhD in Philosophy after completing his dissertation, "The Psychology of Kant."
Today, Dewey's legacy as one of the 20th century's top minds continues to be celebrated by his alma mater. On top of all the attention his books receive in the lecture halls and campus coffee shops, Hopkins established the John Dewey Professor Emeritus of Sociology to honor his lifetime of achievements. Meanwhile, for a more intimate look at the man, members of the Hopkins community need only contact the Special Collections at the University. There, they will find the John Dewey Correspondence Collection, which includes a large number of personal correspondences between Dewey and legendary figures of his ilk, including Ralf Waldo Emerson, Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, Woodrow Wilson, Alexander Graham Bell, Thomas Huxley, Andrew Carnegie, Helen Keller, and Louis Pasteur, among others.