1842 Born in New York City, January 11, the son of Henry James, an unorthodox mystic. The life of the James family was "creative anarchy," moving often, wandering back and forth across the Atlantic, and entertaining the intellectual figures of the day such as Ralph Waldo Emerson, Washington Irving, and Oliver Wendell Holmes. William's grandfather, William James, was an Irish immigrant to the U.S.; a shrewd businessman, from a virtually penniless state, he became one of the wealthiest men in the state of New York.
1852-1860 Attends school in New York, private tutors in England and France, school and private tutors in Switerland and Germany.
1860 Studies painting with W. M. Hunt, Newport, R.I., against the wishes of his father, who wanted William to become a scientist. William's self-doubt about his own abilities and his worry about supporting himself as an artist, led him to eventually abandon this vocation and turn to science.
1861 Enters Lawrence Scientific School, Harvard University, a chemistry major at first, but then anatomy and biology. He studies under the anatomist Jeffires Wyman, an evolutionist; evolutionary theory will have a central influence in William's work in physiology, psychology, and philosophy..
1864 Enters Harvard Medical School.
1865-1866 Joins the Agassiz expedition to Brazil. He disagreements with Agassiz' views of putting biology under the care of divine revelation pushes him toward philosophy as his true pursuit. Smallpox hospitalizes him during his trip, and he returns home with physical illness that recurs throughout the remainder of his life. Back pain and depression accompany his bouts with illness.
1869 Receives his MD from Harvard. A period of ill-health and recovery follows.
1871 Appointed instructor in anatomy and physiology at Harvard. During the early 1870s, the "Metaphysical Club" comes into being--a group untrained philosophical men who get together to debate the virtues of positivism, rationalism, and what came to be called pragmatism. These include John Fiske, Chauncey Wright, and Charles Pierce.
1875 Begins teaching psychology at Harvard.
1876 Assistant professor of physiology.
1878 Marries Alice Howe Gibbens in Boston, July 20. They had five children--Henry (1879-1947), William (1882-1961), Herman (1884-85), Margaret Mary (1887-1950), and Alexander (1890-1946). Alice was intelligent and insightful, a firm believer in God, and had a pleasant sense of humor. William and Alice would collaborate on works: william would dictate and Alice would transcribe and respond to him. William begins writing a treatise on psychology for the publisher Henry Holt, and has his first publication, "Remarks on Spencer's Definition of Mind as Correspondence" published in the Journal of Speculative Philosophy.
1879 Begins teaching philosophy at Harvard; made assistant professor of philosophy in 1880, professor in 1885 (!) His students include George Santayana, Gertrude Stein, Ralph Barton Perry, W.E.B. DuBois, and William Ernest Hocking.
1890 The Principles of Psychology is published.
1892 Psychology (Briefer Course) is published--a revised version of Principles. It becomes a standard textbook for decades.
1896-1897 Lowell Institute Lectures on "Exceptional Mental States."
1897 Publication of Will to Believe and Other Essays.
1898 Lecture on "Philosophical Conceptions and Practical Results." Berkeley, CA.
1899 Publication of Talks to Teachers.
1899-1901 Convalescence in Europe, followed by Gifford Lectures at Edinburgh (1901-2)
1902 Publication of Varieties of Religious Experiences.
1903 LL.D. from Harvard.
1905 Travels to Europe and meets with Henri Bergson in France and a group of Italian philosophers headed by pragmatist Giovanni Papini.
1906 Acting (visiting) professor at Stanford University. Delivered the lecture "The Moral Equivalent of War," which was well-received.
1906-1907 Lectures on Pragmatism, Lowell Institute and Columbia University.
1907 His lectures are published as Pragmatism: A New Name for Some Old Ways of Thinking.. He resigns from Harvard
1908-1909 Hibbert Lectures at Oxford.
1909 Publication of A Pluralistic Universe, and The Meaning of Truth.
1910 Died at Chocorua, New Hampshire, on August 26, at the age of 68. His wife recorded this cause of death in her diary: "Acute enlargment of the heart. He had worn himself out."