Joseph Story (1779-1845) was born in Marblehead, Massachusetts, to Dr. Elisha Story (1743-1805) and his second wife Mehitable Pedrick (1758-1847). Story graduated from Harvard in 1798, and studied law under Samuel Putnam and Chief Justice Samuel Sewall. Admitted to the bar in 1801, he began practicing law in Salem, Massachusetts. Story allied himself with the Jeffersonian Republicans, and from 1805-1808 he served in the Massachusetts state legislature. Upon Jacob Crowninshield's death, Story completed his office in the United States House of Representatives from 1808-1809. He served briefly as the speaker of the house in Massachusetts in 1811, but in November of that year, President James Madison appointed Story justice of the United States Supreme Court. He remained in this position until his death.
As justice, Story advocated expanding the power of the judiciary branch. He was a close political ally to Justice John Marshall, and exerted great influence over the court. His decisions in admiralty cases during the War of 1812 became landmarks in international law, and he was involved in several other significant decisions, such as Dartmouth College v. Woodward (1819) and Swift v. Tyson (1839).
Story was elected as an overseer of Harvard University in 1818, and in 1829 the Harvard Law School appointed him Dane Professor of Law. Story, a prolific writer, made major scholarly contributions to the legal profession with his works Commentaries on Conflicts of Laws (1834) and Commentaries on Equity Jurisprudence (1836), among others. As a professor, Story mentored a generation of prominent lawyers and politicians, including Rutherford B. Hayes and Charles Sumner.
Story married Mary Lynde Oliver (1781-1805) in 1804, and shortly after his first wife's death, married Sarah Waldo Wetmore (1784-1833) in 1805. With Sarah, Story had seven children, though only two of them, Mary and William Wetmore, lived to adulthood. Story died in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in 1845.