Mathematician:Alfred North Whitehead

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Mathematician

English mathematician who also studied philosophy.

Best known for his co-authorship with Bertrand Arthur William Russell of Principia Mathematica, published from 1910.


Nationality

English


History

  • Born: 15 Feb 1861, Ramsgate, Isle of Thanet, Kent, England
  • Died: 30 Dec 1947, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA


Publications


Notable Quotes

It is a safe rule to apply that, when a mathematician or philosophical author writes with a misty profundity, he is talking nonsense. ($1911$)
-- Quoted in 1937: Eric Temple Bell: Men of Mathematics: They Say: What Say They? : Let Them Say


... by the aid of symbolism, we can make transitions in reasoning almost mechanically by the eye, which otherwise would call into play the higher faculties of the brain.
-- An Introduction to Mathematics ($1911$), quoted in 1973: Irving M. Copi: Symbolic Logic: $1.4$: Symbolic Logic


I regret that it has been necessary for me in this lecture to administer such a large dose of four-dimensional geometry. I do not apologise, because I am really not responsible for the fact that nature in its most fundamental aspect is four-dimensional. Things are what they are.
-- The Concept of Nature ($1920$)
-- Quoted in 1937: Eric Temple Bell: Men of Mathematics: They Say: What Say They? : Let Them Say


The science of Pure Mathematics, in its modern developments, may claim to be the most original creation of the human spirit.
-- Science and the Modern World ($1925$)
-- Quoted in 1937: Eric Temple Bell: Men of Mathematics: They Say: What Say They? : Let Them Say


Give up illusions about ideas of order, accept nothing of inherited norm. Spread joy and revolution. It is the business of the future to be dangerous.
-- Science and the Modern World ($1925$)
-- Also found on the original LP cover of Space Ritual by Hawkwind.


The death of Archimedes at the hands of a Roman soldier is symbolic of a world change of the first magnitude. The Romans were a great race, but they were cursed by the sterility which waits upon practicality. They were not dreamers enough to arrive at new points of view, which could give more fundamental control over the forces of nature. No Roman lost his life because he was absorbed in the contemplation of a mathematical diagram.
-- Quoted in 1937: Eric Temple Bell: Men of Mathematics: Chapter $\text{II}$: Modern Minds in Ancient Bodies


The development of Western philosophy is a series of footnotes to Plato.


Sources