In his book Walden, Henry David Thoreau declared his love of nature, simplicity, and independence. Here are some things you might not have known about Henry David Thoreau, who was born on July 12, 1817. Born in Concord, Massachusetts, in 1817, David Henry Thoreau switched his first and middle names after graduating from Harvard. Henry David Thoreau invented a machine to improve pencils. Don Henley of the Eagles is a huge fan of Henry David Thoreau.