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Bertrand Russell

Bertrand RussellAKA Bertrand Arthur William Russell

Born: 18-May-1872
Birthplace: Ravenscroft, Trelleck, Monmouthshire, Wales
Died: 2-Feb-1970
Location of death: Penrhyndeudraeth, Merioneth, Wales
Cause of death: Influenza
Remains: Cremated (ashes scattered in Wales)

Gender: Male
Religion: Atheist
Race or Ethnicity: White
Sexual orientation: Straight
Occupation: Mathematician, Philosopher, Activist

Nationality: Wales
Executive summary: Mathematician, atheist, and social critic

Philosopher, mathematician, and nonconformist Bertrand Russell was the grandson of John Russell (1792-1878), who was twice Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. Bertrand and his brother were raised by their paternal grandparents after their father's death in 1876. His maternal grandfather, Edward John Stanley (1802-1869), was a long-time member of the House of Commons and served as Postmaster General of the United Kingdom from 1860-66. His godfather was John Stuart Mill. Russell held two titles: 3rd Earl Russell of Kingston Russell and Viscount Amberley of Amberley and of Ardsalla.

As a mathematician, he made fundamental contributions to contemporary formal logic and analytic philosophy, and with Alfred North Whitehead he authored the landmark three-volume work Principia Mathematica. He also developed Russell's paradox, which supposes that S is defined as the set of all sets that are not members of themselves, and then asks, is S a member of itself? If it is, then it cannot be, and if it is not then it must be. Russell illustrated his paradox with the story of a town that has only one barber all the men in town either shave themselves or are shaved by the barber, and the barber only shaves men who do not shave themselves, so who shaves the barber? If, as stipulated, the barber shaves only the men who do not shave themselves, then he cannot shave himself. To a lay reader this might sound like the stuff of riddles, but to advanced mathematicians it suggests that the foundational logic of math may contradict itself. To address this, Russell and Whitehead developed the Theory of Types, in which mathematics is redrawn into "simple theory" and "ramified theory," and, within the latter, the axiom of reducibility.

He was known for taking controversial political stands, expressed eloquently in numerous essays and books, works for which Russell won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1950. He was a founding member of the Men's League for Women's Suffrage in 1907, and at the outbreak of the First World War he co-founded the No-Conscription Fellowship, a group which fought against mandatory conscription. At the height of the Cold War in 1955, he was one of eleven prominent scientists who signed what is now called the Russell-Einstein Manifesto, calling for peaceful resolutions to international conflict and highlighting the dangers of nuclear warfare. In 1957 he became the founding president of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament.

He ran for Parliament thrice, in 1907, 1922, and 1923, losing each time. For urging men to refuse the military draft during WWI, he was fired from his lecturer's post at Cambridge, and twice convicted and once jailed for violations of the Defence of the Realm Act. In 1940 he was appointed to a professorship at City College of New York, but after a public outcry he was deemed "bereft of moral fiber" and unfit to teach, and fired before his first class could convene. Toward the end of his life, he questioned the Warren Commission's conclusion that Lee Harvey Oswald had acted alone in assassinating US President John F. Kennedy, and led an unofficial war crimes tribunal that condemned US atrocities during the Vietnam war.

At Cambridge, he was the supervisor of Austrian philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein. His brother, Frank Russell, was a member of the House of Lords and a close friend of George Santayana, but is best known for being convicted of bigamy. Bertrand Russell's son, John Conrad Russell, married Susan Doniphan Lindsay, the daughter of poet Vachel Lindsay.

Father: John Russell (Viscount Amberley, b. 10-Dec-1842, d. 9-Jan-1876 bronchitis)
Mother: Katherine Louisa Stanley (b. 13-Apr-1842, m. 1864, d. 28-Jun-1874 diphtheria)
Brother: John Francis Stanley Russell ("Frank", b. 12-Aug-1865, d. 3-Mar-1931)
Sister: Rachel Lucretia Russell (b. 2-Mar-1868, d. 3-Jul-1874 diphtheria)
Wife: Alys Pearsall Smith (m. 13-Dec-1894, div. 1921, d. 21-Jan-1951)
Wife: Dora Winifred Black (activist, m. 27-Sep-1921, div. 1935, d. 31-May-1986, one son)
Son: John Conrad Russell (4th Earl Russell, b. 16-Nov-1921, d. 1987)
Daughter: Katharine Jane Russell Tait (b. 29-Dec-1923)
Daughter: Harriet Ruth Russell (b. 8-Jul-1930)
Wife: Patricia Helen Spence ("Peter", governess to Russell's children, m. 18-Jan-1936, div. 1952, one son)
Son: Conrad Russell (historian, 5th Earl Russell, b. 15-Apr-1937, d. 14-Oct-2004)
Wife: Edith Finch (b. 1900, m. 15-Dec-1952, d. 1978)
Mistress: Lady Ottoline Morrell (aristocrat, b. 16-Jun-1873, affair 1920-30s, d. 21-Apr-1938)
Mistress: Vivien Haigh-Wood (wife of T. S. Eliot, b. 28-May-1888, affair 1930s, d. 22-Jan-1947)

    University: BA Mathematics, Trinity College, Cambridge University (1893)
    Lecturer: Mathematics, London School of Economics (1896-99)
    Lecturer: Mathematics, Trinity College, Cambridge University (1899-1916)
    Professor: Philosophy, University of California at Los Angeles (1939-40)
    Professor: City University of New York (1940)
    Fellow: Trinity College, Cambridge University (1946-70)

    The Aristotelian Society President (1911)
    Barnes Foundation Lecturer (1940-43)
    Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament Co-founder & President (1957-60)
    Fabian Society
    London Mathematical Society 1906
    Royal Society 1908
    LMS De Morgan Medal 1932
    Royal Society's Sylvester Medal 1934
    Order of Merit 1949
    Nobel Prize for Literature 1950
    Sonning Prize 1960
    Sedition Convicted, 1916 and 1918, for violations of the Defence of the Realm Act
    Traveled to Bolshevik Russia May-1920 to Jun-1920
    Disturbing the Peace Convicted, 1961
    Risk Factors: Depression

Author of books:
German Social Democracy (1896)
An Essay on the Foundations of Geometry (1897)
A Critical Exposition of the Philosophy of Leibniz (1900)
The Principles of Mathematics (1902)
Philosophical Essays (1910)
Principia Mathematica (1910-13, three volumes; with Alfred North Whitehead)
The Problems of Philosophy (1912)
Our Knowledge of the External World (1914)
Principles of Social Reconstruction (1916)
Political Ideals (1917)
Mysticism and Logic and Other Essays (1918)
Theory and Practice of Bolshevism (1919)
Introduction to Mathematical Philosophy (1919)
The Analysis of Mind (1921)
A Free Man's Worship (1923)
The ABC of Relativity (1925)
Our Knowledge of the External World (1926)
On Education, Especially in Early Childhood (1926)
The Analysis of Matter (1927)
An Outline of Philosophy (1927)
Why I Am Not a Christian (1927)
Sceptical Essays (1928)
Marriage and Morals (1929)
The Conquest of Happiness (1930)
The Scientific Outlook (1931)
Education and the Social Order (1932)
In Praise of Idleness (1935)
Power: A New Social Analysis (1938)
An Inquiry into Meaning and Truth (1940)
A History of Western Philosophy (1945)
Human Knowledge: Its Scope and Limits (1948)
Authority and the Individual (1949)
The Philosophy of Logical Atomism (1949)
Unpopular Essays (1950)
The Impact of Science upon Society (1952)
Human Society in Ethics and Politics (1954)
Logic and Knowledge: Essays, 19011950 (1956)
Portraits From Memory and Other Essays (1956)
My Philosophical Development (1959)
The Basic Writings of Bertrand Russell, 19031959 (1961)
Inquiry into Meaning and Truth (1962)
War Crimes in Vietnam (1966)
The Autobiography of Bertrand Russell (1967-69, three volumes)
Dear Bertrand Russell (1969)
Essays in Analysis (1973, posthumous)
Selected Letters of Bertrand Russell, Vol. 1 (1992, posthumous)
Russell on Ethics (1999, posthumous)
Russell on Religion (1999, posthumous)
Selected Letters of Bertrand Russell, Vol. 2 (2001, posthumous)
Russell on Metaphysics (2003, posthumous)

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