About this Famous Person

Learned HAND

American Learned HAND

born Billings Learned HAND

United States judge and judicial philosopher

Source :  Tim DOWLING

Born: on January 27, 1872 in Albany, New York, USA
Died: on August 18, 1961 in New York City, New York, USA


Billings Learned Hand was born in Albany, New York, the second and last child of Samuel and Lydia Hand (née Learned). His mother's family traditionally used surnames as given names, and Hand was named for an uncle and a grandfather, both named Billings Peck Learned. The Hands were a prominent family with a tradition of activism in the Democratic Party. Hand grew up in comfortable circumstances on Albany's main residential street. The family had an "almost hereditary" attachment to the legal profession, and has been described as "the most distinguished legal family in northern New York".

Samuel Hand was an appellate lawyer, who had risen rapidly through the ranks of an Albany-based law firm in the 1860s and by age 32 was the firm's leading lawyer. He became the leader of the appellate bar and argued cases before the New York Court of Appeals, in 1878, he became the leader of the appellate bar and argued cases before the Court of Appeals in "greater number and importance than those argued by any other lawyer in New York during the same period". Samuel Hand was also a distant, intimidating figure, and Learned Hand later described his relations with his father as "not really intimate". Samuel Hand died from cancer when Hand was 14. Learned Hand's mother thereafter promoted an idealized memory of her husband's professional success, intellectual abilities, and parental perfection, placing considerable pressure on her son.

Lydia Hand was an involved and protective mother, who had been influenced by a Calvinist aunt as a child; and she passed on a strong sense of duty and guilt to her only son. Learned Hand eventually came to understand the influences of his parents as formative. After his father's death, he looked to religion to help him cope, writing to his cousin Augustus Noble Hand: "If you could imagine one half the comfort my religion has given to me in this terrible loss, you would see that Christ never forsakes those who cling to him." The depth of Hand's early religious convictions was in sharp contrast to his later agnosticism.

Hand was beset by anxieties and self-doubt throughout his life, including night terrors as a child. He later admitted he was "very undecided, always have been—a very insecure person, very fearful; morbidly fearful". Especially after his father's death, he grew up surrounded by doting women—his mother, his aunt, and his sister Lydia (Lily), eight years his elder. Hand struggled with his name during his childhood and adulthood, worried that "Billings" and "Learned" were not sufficiently masculine. While working as a lawyer in 1899, he ceased using the name "Billings"—calling it "pompous"—and ultimately took on the nickname "B".

Hand spent two years at a small primary school before transferring at the age of seven to The Albany Academy, which he attended for the next 10 years. He never enjoyed the Academy's uninspired teaching or its narrow curriculum, which focused on Ancient Greek and Latin, with few courses in English, history, science, or modern languages. Socially, he considered himself an outsider, rarely enjoying recesses or the school's military drills. Vacations, spent in Elizabethtown, New York, were happier times. There, Hand developed a life-long friendship with his cousin and future colleague Augustus Noble Hand, two years his senior. The two were self-confessed "wild boys", camping and hiking in the woods and hills, where Hand developed a love of nature and the countryside. Many years later, when he was in his 70s, Hand recorded several songs for the Library of Congress that he had learned as a boy from Civil War veterans in Elizabethtown. After his father's death, he felt an increased pressure from his mother to excel academically. He finished near the top of his class and was accepted into Harvard College, which his classmates—who opted for places such as Williams and Yale—thought a "stuckup, snobbish school".

Source :  http://www.wikipedia.org/

See Also :

- Category Lawyer, Magistrate