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Walt Whitman (1819-1892), arguably one of America's most influential and innovative poets, was born into a working-class family in West Hills, New York, and grew up in Brooklyn. His Leaves of Grass, from which "When I Heard the Learn'd Astronomer" comes, is considered one of the central volumes in the history of world poetry. While most other major writers of his time enjoyed a highly structured, classical education at private institutions, Whitman forged his own rough and informal curriculum, and his brief stint at teaching suggests that Whitman employed what were then progressive techniques -- encouraging students to think aloud rather than simply recite, and involving his students in educational games.