Bertrand Russell: Life, Major Accomplishments & Facts
Bertrand Russell is a founding member of Anglo-American philosophy. He received the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1950 and is well-known as one of the earliest philosophers of the 20th century. He was also publicly known as a peace activist and as an active writer on socio-political and moral issues.
What other feats was this British mathematician and philosopher most known for? Below, WHE explores the life and notable accomplishments of Bertrand Russell.
Major Achievements of Bertrand Russell
Bertrand Russell published his first political piece, “German Social Democracy” in 1896. The book was inspired by his visit to Berlin in 1895 with his earliest wife, Alys Pearsall Smith.
Russell began an extensive study of the basics of mathematics at Trinity and he wrote an “An Essay on the Foundations of Geometry” in 1897 when he was 25 years old. The book was presented at the Fellowship Examination of Trinity College.
Soon after writing his book on geometry, he abandoned the metaphysical idealism. Russell was stimulated by the works of mathematicians Karl Weierstrass, Georg Cantor, and Richard Dedekind, and birthed the idea of showing that mathematics did not only have rationally strong foundations but also was entirely logical. The basis for this thought was later termed as logicism, which he detailed in his book “The Principles of Mathematics” in 1903, arguing that mathematics could be derived without the use of mathematical ideas such as squares and root but were rather restricted to proposition and class.
Towards the conclusion of his work on “The Principles of Mathematics” Russell discovered that he had been predicted by the German mathematician Gottlob Frege, whose book “The Foundations of Arithmetic” (1884) contained most of his inventions. He then added an appendix to his work, discussing Frege’s work and highlighting the differences between their individual understandings of the nature of logic.
His essay “On Denoting” was written in 1905 and published in “Mind”, a philosophical paper. Russell wrote a three-volume book titled “Principia Mathematica” (1910 – 13) with Whitehead and soon gained world recognition in his field also for his work “The Principles of Mathematics”.
In 1910, the philosopher taught at his alma mater, Trinity College in Cambridge.
He actively participated in pacifist activities during WW I. Following his dismissal from Trinity College due to his lack of Fellowship, he wrote a speech titled “Free Thought and Official Propaganda,” in 1992 describing his dismissal as illegitimate and a violation of freedom of expression.
Russell played an important role in the Leeds Convention in June 1917, a historic event which assembled over a thousand “anti-war socialists” many of whom were representatives from the Independent Labor Party and the Socialist Party, joining their pacifist beliefs and campaigning for a peace settlement.
He won several awards, including De Morgan Medal in 1932. He was also awarded a Sylvester Medal in 1934. Russell is the holder of the Kalinga Prize (1957) and Jerusalem Prize (1963).
Interesting Facts about Bertrand Russell
The following are some other interesting facts about the English mathematician and philosopher:
- His exact place of birth is Ravenscroft, Trellech, Monmouthshire in Wales. His parents were Lord and Lady Amberley.
- Russell was raised by his grandmother Countess Russell after he lost his sister, his parents and grandfather at the age of six. He was homeschooled and later studied mathematics and Euclidean geometry at the age of eleven.
- During his adolescence, he wrote his initial philosophical pieces and documented his skepticism which made him leave the Christian faith with which his grandmother had trained him.
- He graduated from Trinity College in Cambridge in 1893.
- Bertrand Russell was voted a Fellow of the Royal Society (FRS) in 1908.
- The British logician and philosopher died of influenza on February 2, 1970 at his residence in Penrhyndeudraeth in Merionethshire, Wales. As per his wishes, his body was cremated and the ashes scattered over the Welsh mountains in 1971.
- Although he was born in Wales, he sometimes regarded himself English.