July 12, 1817 – Philosopher and social reformer Henry David Thoreau is born in Concord, Massachusetts. He is best known for his memoir Walden; or, Life in the Woods (a call for simplicity, thoughful living, and closeness to nature) and his essay “Civil Disobedience” (which influenced later reformers includingÂ Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr.). Thoreau was interested in Eastern spiritualism and critical of the organized religion of his time: “The church is a sort of hospital for men’s souls and as full of quackery as the hospital for their bodies.â€ He died in 1862.
July 12, 1895 – Environmental activist (and inventor of the geodesic dome) Buckminster Fuller is born in Milton, Massachusetts. Fuller was named Humanist of the Year in 1969 by the American Humanist Association. He died in 1983.
July 12, 1926 – English traveler, writer, archaeologist and political officer Gertrude Bell dies in Baghdad. Although she identified as an atheist from childhood, as an adult she became a confidante–through her extensive travels in the Middle East–of several Muslim Arab and Persian tribal leaders. After World War I, she became involved in the British initiative to restructure the collapsed Ottoman Empire,Â and particularly in the creation of the kingdoms in Jordan and Iraq.
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