Robert Lewis Dabney was born on 5 March 1820 in Louisa County, Virginia, an area where loyalty to conservative religious and social principles was natural and considered to be a point of honor. This attitude may also have become part of his personality at the age of thirteen, when the death of his father caused him to assume oversight of the family farm. He studied for a short while in 1836–7 at Hampden-Sydney College but resumed farming again while also teaching at a local school. In 1842 he obtained an MA degree from the University of Virginia and four years later a BD degree from Union Theological Seminary in the same state. After ordination within a few months Dabney traveled as a missionary in several counties and then served from 1846 to 1853 as minister of the Tinkling Springs Presbyterian church in Augusta County. Many agreed that he had reached the apex of his career when he joined the faculty of Union Theological Seminary, the most influential Presbyterian institution in the South. During his tenure there from 1853 to 1883, Dabney molded generations of ministerial students in ecclesiastical history, polity, and, most importantly, in systematic theology.
From The Dictionary of Modern American Philosophers in Oxford Reference.