Jaspers was born in Oldenburg in 1883 to a mother from a local farming community and a father who was a jurist. He showed an early interest in philosophy although his father's experience with the legal system undoubtedly influenced his decision to study law at university. It soon became clear that law was not something Jaspers particularly enjoyed and he switched to studying medicine in 1902.
Jaspers graduated from medical school in 1909 and began work at a psychiatric hospital in Heidelberg, where Emil Kraepelin had worked some years earlier. Jaspers became dissatisfied with the way the medical community of the time approached the study of mental illness and set himself the task of improving the psychiatric approach. In 1913 Jaspers was given a temporary post as a psychology teacher at Heidelberg University. The post later became permanent and Jaspers never returned to clinical practice.
At the age of 40, Jaspers turned from psychology to philosophy, expanding on themes he developed in his psychiatric works. He was a renowned philosopher, well respected in Germany and Europe, and he remained prominent in the philosophical community until his death in 1969.
Now... why do I bring this guy up?
Last year in a Ancient Chinese Philosophy course I read Chapter One of his book The Origin and Goal of History
entitled "The Axial Period."
In the chapter he points out how between the periods of 750-250 BC there are world-wide parellels in terms of influential thinkers being present. In Greece, Thales, Anaximander, Pythagoras, Heraclitus and Xenophanes, with Parmenides being born during that time (the beginnings of Western Thought). In Chna, Lao Tzu and Confucius. In Israel Jeremiah, Habakkuk, Daniel, and Ezekiel. In Persia, there was a reformation of Zarathustra's teachings. In India, Sakyamuni.
He goes though an analysis of how other parellels exist in cultures, but none stand out in terms of simultaneity, answers objections to remarks that this worldwide occurance, while interesting, is not significant, and goes through what he believes the significance is.
Another thing my professor pointed out as his thoughts on this piece was comparing the cultures of the areas affected, what occured in those thoughts, and comparing them to present day situations amongst themselves and in areas where there was this type of intellectual movement.