John Milton

Born: 1608
Died: 1674.

Occupation: Poet

Challenges overcome: Visual Impairment

Successes, Achievements & Awards:

John Milton, born in London in 1608, is considered of the most important English writer after Shakespeare. He is best known for his poem, ‘Paradise Lost’, an epic poem that solidifies John Milton’s place as one of the great English poets. As a poet living in some of the most volatile times of our history, John was a poet with radical political themes.

After school and Christ’s College, Cambridge where John Milton was preparing to enter the clergy, Milton abandoned his plans for ministry work and decided he wanted to be a poet instead. In preparation for his new career, John began reading varied works that focused on religion, politics, philosophy, literature and science. John Milton was able to read and write in a number of languages, including Latin, Hebrew and Greek, which helped during his time of study. During this time John Milton also travelled to France and Italy to meet other intellectual and influencing people, and also met famous astronomer Galileo, who John featured in his ‘Areopagitica’ piece.

When returning to England in time for the civil unrest, John began creating prose for the republican cause, and became Oliver Cromwell’s chief phamleteer, as the rise of the printing press meant pamphlets were at the forefront of the revolution, and polemicist.

After the English republic collapsed with Oliver Cromwell’s death and the monarchy was restored, John was imprisoned and narrowly escaped execution.

He married his 16-year-old bride, Mary Powell, in 1642, and had four children with her. After Mary’s death, John Milton remarried twice, to Katherine Woodcock in 1956, who died two years later during childbirth, and again to Elizabeth Minshull in 1662.

Challenges Overcome

Whilst serving for Cromwell, John Milton’s eyesight slowly began to deteriorate and was completely gone by 1651. He was able to continue writing with aid from assistants.

John Milton died in Buckinghamshire, in November of 1674.

Disability Definitions

Visually Impaired

Visual impairment (or vision impairment) is a decreased ability to see to a degree that causes problems not fixable by usual means, such as glasses or medication. Eye disorders which can lead to visual impairments can include retinal degeneration, albinism, cataracts, glaucoma, muscular problems that result in visual disturbances, corneal disorders, diabetic retinopathy, congenital disorders, and infection. Visual impairment can also be caused by brain and nerve disorders, in which case it is usually termed cortical visual impairment.


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Information sources:

Please click on the information links below to find out more.


Gordon Campbell, ‘Milton, John (1608–1674)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edition, Jan 2009 [http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/18800, accessed 14 May 2015] – Please note that you will require library subscription or a library card to access the content on this site.

Image source: wikicommons

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