Hale was orphaned by the age of five and fostered by Anthony Kingscote. He had no interest in the law until 1628, when he began to study intensively. He was called to the bar in 1637 and eventually rose to become lord chief justice of the King's Bench (then the highest judicial office in the country) in 1671 and was also in charge of the tribunal to determine property rights after the Great Fire of London in 1666. He also presided over witchcraft trials.
In 1654 he was elected member of Parliament for Gloucestershire, his home county. He wrote books not only on the law but also on science and religion. His History and Analysis of the Common Law of England (1713) formed the basis for Blackstone's famous Commentaries.
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