About Bertrand Russell
As a philosopher, mathematician, educator, social critic and political
activist, Bertrand Russell authored over 70 books and thousands of
essays and letters addressing a myriad of topics. Awarded the Nobel
Prize in Literature in 1950, Russell was a fine literary stylist, one of
the foremost logicians ever, and a gadfly for improving the lives of
men and women.
Born in 1872 into the British aristocracy and educated at Cambridge
University, Russell gave away much of his inherited wealth. But in 1931
he inherited and kept an earldom. His multifaceted career centered on
work as a philosophy professor, writer, and public lecturer.
Russell was an author of diverse scope. His first books were German Social Democracy, An Essay on the Foundations of Geometry, and A Critical Exposition of the Philosophy of Leibniz. His last books were War Crimes in Vietnam and The Autobiography of Bertrand Russell. Other noteworthy books include Principles of Mathematics, Principia Mathematica (with A.N. Whitehead), Anti-Suffragist Anxieties, The Problems of Philosophy, Introduction to Mathematical Philosophy, Sceptical Essays, Why I Am Not a Christian, and A History of Western Philosophy.
He was arguably the greatest philosopher of the 20th century and the
greatest logician since Aristotle. Analytic philosophy, the dominant
philosophy of the twentieth century, owes its existence more to Russell
than to any other philosopher. And the system of logic developed by
Russell and A.N. Whitehead, based on earlier work by Dedekind, Cantor,
Frege, and Peano, broke logic out of its Aristotelian straitjacket. He
was also one of the century’s leading public intellectuals and won the
Nobel Prize for Literature in 1950 “in recognition of his varied and
significant writings in which he champions humanitarian ideals and
freedom of thought.”
Russell was involved, often passionately, in numerous social and
political controversies of his time. For example, he supported
suffragists, free thought in religion and morals, and world government;
he opposed World War I and the Vietnam War, nationalism, and political
persecution. He was jailed in 1918 for anti-war views and in 1961 for
his anti-nuclear weapons stance.
He was married 4 times and had 3 children. With Dora Russell, he founded
the experimental Beacon Hill School. He knew or worked with many of the
most prominent figures in late 19th and 20th century philosophy,
mathematics, science, literature, and politics.
Active as a political and social critic until his end, Russell died in 1970 at the age of 97.