John Dewey (1859–1952) was born in Burlington, Vermont. Aged sixteen he attended the University of Vermont where he read Darwin’s The origin of species (1859), although it was not on the college curriculum. Its evolutionary theory, especially as developed by T. H. Huxley (1825–1895) in his Elements of physiology, profoundly influenced his ‘distinctive philosophical interest’ and thereby his educational theory. Indeed, in later reflections on his life, Dewey wrote:

There was derived from that study a sense of interdependence and interrelated unity that gave form to intellectual stirrings that had previously been inchoate, and created a type or model of a view of things to which material in any field ought to conform … I was led to derive a picture of it, derived from the study of Huxley’s treatment.

(quoted in Ryan, 1997, pp. 53/54)