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John Emerich Edward Dalberg Acton, first Baron Acton (1834–1902) by Eveleen Myers, 1890s © National Portrait Gallery, London

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Acton, John Emerich Edward Dalberg, first Baron Acton (1834–1902), historian and moralist, was born at Naples on 10 January 1834, the only child of Sir Ferdinand Richard Edward Acton, seventh baronet (1801–1837), and Marie Louise Pelline de Dalberg (1812–1860), the French-bred heir of ...

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Aikenhead, Thomas (bap. 1676, d. 1697), freethinker and blasphemer, was baptized on 28 March 1676, the son of James Aikenhead (d. in or before 1683), apothecary and burgess of Edinburgh, and his wife, Helen (d. 1685), daughter of Thomas Ramsey, former minister of ...

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Ball, William Platt (1844–1917), freethinker and author, was born on 28 November 1844 at 12 Regent Row, Birmingham, the son of Abraham Ball, copper plate printer, and his wife, Mary Platt. He was educated at the Birkbeck Institute, London, and was briefly a schoolteacher before resigning in protest against religious instruction. In 1866 he matriculated at the ...

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Edward Spencer Beesly (1831–1915) by Barraud © National Portrait Gallery, London

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Beesly, Edward Spencer (1831–1915), positivist and historian, was born on 23 January 1831 in Feckenham, Worcestershire, the eldest son of the Revd James Beesly and his wife, Emily Fitzgerald, of Queen's county, Ireland. After reading Latin and Greek with his father, in the autumn of 1846 he was sent to ...

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Blount, Charles (1654–1693), freethinker and author, was born at Upper Holloway, Islington, Middlesex, on 27 April 1654 and baptized at Highgate Chapel, Hornsey, on 10 May 1654, the fourth son of Sir Henry Blount (1602–1682), traveller, of Tittenhanger, Hertfordshire, and his wife, Hester (...

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Bradlaugh, Charles (1833–1891), politician and freethinker, was born on 26 September 1833 at home at 31 Bacchus Walk, Hoxton, London, the eldest of seven children born to Charles Bradlaugh, a solicitor's clerk, and his wife, Elizabeth Trimby, a former nursemaid. He was baptized at ...

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Charles Bradlaugh (1833–1891) by Walter Sickert, exh. New English Art Club 1890 © Estate of Walter R. Sickert. All rights reserved, DACS 2010; National Liberal Club; © reserved in the photograph

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Bray, Charles (1811–1884), freethinker and social reformer, was born in Coventry on 31 January 1811, the son of a wealthy ribbon manufacturer. Ill as a child, Bray was sent out of the city at an early age and attended a boarding-school from the age of nine to fourteen, after which he went to a school at ...

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Bridges, John Henry (1832–1906), positivist and medical administrator, was born on 11 October 1832 at the vicarage, Old Newton, Suffolk. Slight, fair-haired, and fine-featured, he was the third of five children of the Revd Charles Bridges (1794–1869), a well-known evangelical, and his wife, ...

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Brown, John (1715–1766), author and moralist, was born on 5 November 1715 in Rothbury, Northumberland, the son of the Revd John Brown (1677–1763), from Cockburnspath in Berwickshire, and his wife, Eleanor Troutbeck, née Potts (c.1679–1758), the widow of Anthony Troutbeck (...

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Cannon, George [pseud. Erasmus Perkins] (1789–1854), freethinker and publisher, was born in London. His parents and early education remain unknown, but he later hinted at a dissenting background, and he was well versed in French as well as philosophy, theology, and literature. Between 1812 and 1815 he became a solicitor at ...

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Chilton, William (1815–1855), printer and freethinker, was baptized in the parish of St Philip and St Jacob, Bristol, on 2 July 1815, the son of William Chilton, a tin-plate worker, and Mary Ann Chilton, a dressmaker. From 1829 to 1836 he was apprenticed to a printer, ...

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Cohen, Chapman (1868–1954), freethought writer and lecturer, was born in Leicester on 1 September 1868, the elder son of Enoch Cohen, a Jewish confectioner, and his wife, Deborah Barnett. His upbringing was more noted for the absence of Christianity than for any positive Jewish features. He attended a local elementary school but was otherwise self-educated. Although an avid reader, versed in ...

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Collins, Anthony (1676–1729), philosopher and freethinker, was born on 21 June 1676 at Isleworth, Middlesex, the eldest child of Henry Collins (1646/7–1705), lawyer, and Mary Dineley. He was educated at Eton College and then at King's College, Cambridge, from 1693 to 1696, but did not take a degree. At ...

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Congreve, Richard (1818–1899), positivist, was born at Leamington Hastings, Warwickshire, on 4 September 1818, the third son of Thomas Congreve, a farmer, and his wife, Julia. After attending the school run by his uncle Walter Bury in Boulogne, he spent five years (1832–7) at ...

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Cotton, Sir Henry John Stedman (1845–1915), administrator in India and positivist, was born in Kumbakonam, Madras presidency, south India, on 13 September 1845, the first of two sons of Joseph John Cotton (1813–1867), East India Company servant, and his wife, Jessie Minchin, daughter of a ...

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Crompton, Henry (1836–1904), barrister and positivist, was born at Liverpool on 27 August 1836, the second of five sons and three daughters of Sir Charles John Crompton (1797–1865), judge of the queen's bench, and his wife, Caroline Fletcher. The eldest son, Charles Crompton (1833–1890), QC...

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Detrosier, Rowland [formerly Rowley Barnes] (1800?–1834), freethinking radical and popular lecturer, was born in London, the son of a Manchester merchant, Robert Norris, and a Frenchwoman named Detrosier. His parents abandoned him soon after his birth and he was adopted by a Swedenborgian tailor from ...