Born in 1767, he traveled the world with his father, John Adams, representing the brand new nation. The elder Adams was American envoy to France (1778-79) and to the Netherlands (1780-82), introducing John Quincy to diplomatic missions before his teenage years. At the age of 14, John Quincy joined the three-year American mission to Russia, seeking diplomatic recognition of the United States. He also spent time in Finland, Sweden, and Denmark.
As an adult (following his graduation from Harvard in 1790), he practiced law for a few years, before being appointed Ambassador to the Netherlands (1794-97) and Prussia (1797-1801). He returned home to represent Massachusetts in the Senate (1803-08), and then became Ambassador to Russia (1808-14) and the United Kingdom (1814-17), returning home again to become Secretary of State.
On August 15, 1813, John Quincy's older sister Abigail Adams Smith died, making him the senior Presidential child. He held that title until his death, making him the only President to also be the senior Presidential child at the same time. George W. Bush may one day have both titles, but not simultaneously.