Nineteenth Century Philosophy

William Whewell

What were the main facts about Whewell’s life?

William Whewell was born in Lancaster in 1794. His father was a master carpenter, and his mother wrote poetry. He studied at Heversham Grammar School and attended Trinity College, Cambridge, on a scholarship. He was elected to the Royal Society in 1820, when he was just 26. After being ordained as an Anglican priest—a requirement for the post—he was chair of mineralogy at Trinity College from 1828 to 1832. He became professor of moral philosophy in 1838.

Whewell married Cordelia Marshall and became master of Trinity College and vice chancellor of Cambridge in two separate terms. When Cordelia died, he married Lady Affleck, who was the sister of a friend. Lady Affleck died, and then Whewell himself passed away after he was injured in a riding accident. His work was largely neglected until the mid-twentieth century; the revival of interest in his empirical and theoretical achievements has been substantial ever since.


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