Thoreau was born in Concord, Massachusetts. He graduated from Harvard University. From 1841-1843, Thoreau lived in the house of Ralph Waldo Emerson and was introduced to the philosophy known as
transcendentalism. In 1845, Thoreau moved to a hut on Walden Pond, just outside of Concord. There, he spent most of his time observing nature and medititating. He supported himself with odd jobs around the area, such as gardening and carpentry.
Emerson joined him there from 1847-1848.
Only two of Thoreau's works were published during his lifetime, A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers(1849) and Walden;or, Life in the Woods(1854). Walden, his most important work, chronicles Thoreau's meditations on non-materialism and reverence for nature.
In "Civil Disobedience"(1849), Thoreau explained why he chose to go to jail instead of paying a poll tax which supported the Mexican War. This method of protest was later taken up by such peaceful revolutionaries as Mahandas Gandhi and by
Martin Luther King, Jr.
Other collections of Thoreau's writing were only published after his death. They include Excursions(1863), The Maine Woods(1864), Cape Cod(1865), and A Yankee in Canada(1866).
Primary Source: Microsoft Encarta