James Martineau, the son of a textile manufacturer and the brother of Harriet Martineau, was born in Norwich in 1805. After being educated at the local grammar school and by Dr. Lant Carpenter in Bristol, he was ordained in the Unitarian ministry in 1828. Martineau served as a minister in Dublin and Liverpool.
In 1841 Martineau was appointed professor of moral philosophy at Manchester New College. While at Manchester he developed a reputation as a leading religious philosopher after the publication of Endeavours After the Christian Life (1843). In 1869 he became principal of the college and wrote several books on religion and philosophy including A Study of Spinoza (1882), Types of Ethical Theory (1885), A Study of Religion (1888) and the Seat of Authority in Religion (1890).
In his books Martineau was strong critic of materialism and was one of the first philosophers to recognize the importance of Darwin's theory of evolution.James Martineau died in 1900.