Alfred North Whitehead

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Alfred North Whitehead, OM (15 February 1861 – 30 December 1947) was an English mathematician who became a philosopher. He wrote on algebra, logic, foundations of mathematics, philosophy of science, physics, metaphysics, and education. Whitehead supervised the doctoral dissertations of Bertrand Russell and Willard Van Orman Quine, thus influencing logic and virtually all of analytic philosophy. He co-authored the epochal Principia Mathematica with Russell.



Whitehead was born in Ramsgate, Kent, England. Although his grandfather, Thomas Whitehead, was known for having founded Chatham House Academy, a fairly successful school for boys, Alfred North was educated at Sherborne School, Dorset, then considered one of the best public schools in the country. His childhood was described as over-protected, but when at school he excelled in sports, mathematics and was head prefect of his class.

In 1880, Whitehead matriculated at Trinity College, Cambridge, where he was fourth wrangler and gained his BA in 1884.[1] Elected a fellow of Trinity in 1884, Whitehead would teach and write mathematics at the college until 1910, spending the 1890s writing his Treatise on Universal Algebra (1898) and the 1900s collaborating with his former pupil, Russell, on the first edition of Principia Mathematica.[2]

In 1910, he resigned his position at Trinity College to protest the dismissal of a colleague because of an adulterous affair. He also ran afoul of a Cambridge by-law limiting the term of a Senior Lecturer to 25 years.

In 1890, Whitehead married Evelyn Wade, an Irish woman reared in France; they had a daughter and two sons. One son died in action while serving in the Royal Flying Corps during World War I. Meanwhile, Russell spent much of 1918 in prison because of his pacifist activities. Although Whitehead visited his co-author in prison, he did not take his pacifism seriously, while Russell sneered at Whitehead's later speculative Platonism and panpsychism. After the war, Russell and Whitehead seldom interacted, and Whitehead did not contribute to the 1925 second edition of Principia Mathematica.

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