Considered the greatest English speaking philosopher of the 19th century, John Stuart Mill was such a precocious child, having learned Greek, Latin, mathematics, astronomy and six of Plato's dialogs by the age of eight, that he suffered a nervous breakdown when he turned twenty. His father, the famous Scottish philosopher and economist James Mill, kept John sequestered from his peers, structured a relentless educational regime following the Socratic method, intending to create a genius in his son to carry on the utilitarian movement.
Mill is credited with inventing "falsifiability" as a key component to the scientific method, and is best regarded in championing the rights of individuals to limit the powers of government. He is best known for his treatise On Liberty (1859) and in Considerations on Representative Government (1861), in which he called for legislative reforms including proportional representation and the right to vote. Mill considered representative government to be the optimal form that government could take. But Mill had a very different idea about the role of legislative bodies, and argued that the proper business of parliaments and senates was not to make legislation, but to debate the issues, according to the opinions of the population and to act as a watchdog over the professionals who create and administer the laws and policy that govern the population.
John Stuart Mill's liberal political philosophies and published works have influenced an immeasurable number of intellectuals, politicians and writers, past and present, among them Thomas Hardy. Mill formed the basis for such formative movements that would later be named "civil rights," "feminism" and "green," among many others involving personal freedoms superceding the powers of government.
Mill's The Subjection of Women (1869) was a strong treatise arguing for the equality of the sexes. He is an important but often overlooked contributor to feminism.