Bertrand Russell was a celebrated twentieth century mathematician. He is not only known for his work in the field of mathematics but also as a social critic, historian, author and political activist. He proved his talent in diverse fields becoming a Nobel laureate. His name was synonymous to revolutionizing force of Britain in 20th century. He revolted against a school of thought called idealism. Furthermore, he left his fingerprint on an array of disciplines including computer science, artificial intelligence, cognitive science, mathematics, set theory, logic, philosophy, metaphysics, linguistics and more such disciplines.
Bertrand Arthur William Russell was born on 18 May, 1872 in Trellech, Monmouthshire, United Kingdom to a noble and an aristocratic family. His parent Viscount and Viscountess lived a decadent life as he father had no objections on his wife having an illicit affair with the tutor of his children. While, his father was openly an atheist who chose John Stuart Mill as his secular godfather. His grandfather Earl Russell was twice offered by Queen Victoria to form a government and become the Prime Minister. Bertrand Russell came from a long line of British aristocrats who were prominent in Britain for several centuries. He had two siblings and his mother died of diphtheria when he was only two and soon after his four year older sister passed away too. As if ill-fate had become an unwanted guest of Russells, his father met his tragic fate in 1876 following a long period of illness due to bronchitis and frequent bouts of depression.
Following his father’s demise, Bertrand and his brother Frank were left in the care of their grandparents known for their staunch Victorian ways. His grandfather also joined his son in 1878 while leaving the Countess Russell as the head of the family. The Countess was a staunch and dominating figure who emotionally repressed the children. Frank open rebelled against her while Bertrand was an introvert who suffered inwardly. Russell suffered from bouts of depression as he felt isolated and even contemplated taking his own life. In his autobiography he revealed that what brought him from the edge of darkness was his desire to explore mathematics that even saved his life. He was home-tutored and was introduced to a life-changing work of a distinguished Greek mathematician, Euclid, by his brother. He also held Percy Bysshe Shelley in great esteem as he keenly read and memorized his work.
In 1890, Russell was offered a scholarship to the Mathematical Tripos at Trinity College, Cambridge. He was trained by Robert Rumsey Webb and was acquainted with George Edward Moore and Alfred North Whitehead. In 1893, he graduated as seventh Wrangler with stellar performance in mathematics and philosophy. He met Alys and fell for her which led to their marriage in 1894, defying his grandmother’s wishes. Russell like his mother did not have a one track mind as he realized he no longer loved Alys and they finalized their divorce in 1921. Russell had several illicit affairs keeping up with the reputation of his ancestors.
Additionally, he wrote An Essay on the Foundations of Geometry, in 1898, while he was extensively studying the foundations of mathematics at Trinity. In a philosophical journal Mind, he published an essay “On Denoting”. His earlier publications in early twentieth century include three-volume Principia Mathematica which was written in collaboration with Whitehead. He was appointed a lecturer at the University of Cambridge. Moreover, he was the supervisor and mentor of eminent Austrian engineering Ludwig Wittgenstein at Cambridge helping him through academic and personal problems.