Bertrand Russell biography

Bertrand Russell

Philosopher, Author

1872 – 1970


Who was Bertrand Russell?

Bertrand Arthur William Russell, 3rd Earl Russell, OM, FRS was a British nobleman, philosopher, logician, mathematician, historian, and social critic. At various points in his life he considered himself a liberal, a socialist, and a pacifist, but he also admitted that he had never been any of these in any profound sense. He was born in Monmouthshire, into one of the most prominent aristocratic families in Britain.

Russell led the British "revolt against idealism" in the early 20th century. He is considered one of the founders of analytic philosophy along with his predecessor Gottlob Frege and his protégé Ludwig Wittgenstein. He is widely held to be one of the 20th century's premier logicians. He co-authored, with A. N. Whitehead, Principia Mathematica, an attempt to ground mathematics on logic. His philosophical essay "On Denoting" has been considered a "paradigm of philosophy". His work has had a considerable influence on logic, mathematics, set theory, linguistics, artificial intelligence, computer science, and philosophy, especially philosophy of language, epistemology, and metaphysics.

Russell was a prominent anti-war activist; he championed anti-imperialism and went to prison for his pacifism during World War I. Later, he campaigned against Adolf Hitler, then criticised Stalinist totalitarianism, attacked the involvement of the United States of America in the Vietnam War, and was an outspoken proponent of nuclear disarmament. In 1950 Russell was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature "in recognition of his varied and significant writings in which he champions humanitarian ideals and freedom of thought."

Famous Quotes:

  • A truer image of the world, I think, is obtained by picturing things as entering into the stream of time from an eternal world outside, than from a view which regards time as the devouring tyrant of all that is.
  • One of the signs of an approaching nervous breakdown is the belief that one's work is terribly important.
  • The good life is one inspired by life and guided by knowledge.
  • Indignation is a submission of our thoughts, but not of our desires.
  • Our instinctive emotions are those that we have inherited from a much more dangerous world, and contain, therefore, a larger portion of fear than they should.
  • Men fear thought as they fear nothing else on earth more than ruin more even than death. Thought is subversive and revolutionary, destructive and terrible, thought is merciless to privilege, established institutions, and comfortable habit. Thought looks into the pit of hell and is not afraid. Thought is great and swift and free, the light of the world, and the chief glory of man.
  • Religions, which condemn the pleasures of sense, drive men to seek the pleasures of power. Throughout history power has been the vice of the ascetic.
  • Advocates of capitalism are very apt to appeal to the sacred principles of liberty, which are embodied in one maxim: The fortunate must not be restrained in the exercise of tyranny over the unfortunate.
  • Thought is great and swift and free, the light of the world, the chief glory of man.
  • No matter how eloquently a dog may bark, he cannot tell you that his parents were poor, but honest.


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May 18, 1872
Also known as
  • 3rd Earl Russell
  • Bertrand Arthur William Russell
  • Bertie
  • Dr. Bertrand Russell
  • Bertrand Arthur William Russell, 3rd Earl Russell, OM, FRS
  • The Honourable Bertrand Arthur William Russell
  • The Honourable Bertrand Arthur William Russell, FRS
  • The Right Honourable The Earl Russell, FRS
  • The Right Honourable The Earl Russell, OM, FRS
  • Lord Russell
  • Atheism
  • Agnosticism
  • United Kingdom
  • Wales
  • Trinity College, Cambridge
    (1890 - 1895)
  • University of Chicago
  • University of California, Los Angeles
Lived in
  • Monmouthshire
Feb 2, 1970

on July 23, 2013

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