Born near Cologne in 1828, Joseph Dietzgen worked most of his life as a tanner. A self-educated man, he participated in the Revolution of 1848 where he first read the writings of Karl Marx and became one of his supporters. Exiled from Germany after the failed revolution, he spent time in both America and Russia, where he wrote his most famous work The Nature of Human Brain Work, published in 1869, before returning to Germany. In 1884 he moved to the United States for the third and last time after being imprisoned in Germany for his political writing. He became editor of the anarchist Chicagoer Arbeiterzeitung when it’s previous editors were hung by the State in response to the Haymarket bombings. When he died 2 years later he was buried beside them in Chicago.
Called by Marx “The Philosopher of Socialism,” Joseph Dietzgen was a pioneer of dialectical materialism and a fundamental influence on anarchist and socialist thought who we would do well not to forget.