Books by Alfred Whitehead
Books about Alfred Whitehead

Biography: Alfred Whitehead

Alfred Whitehead was a mathematician and philosopher who collaborated with Bertrand Russell. Whitehead was taught at home until he was 14 when he entered Sherbourne School. He showed a special gift for mathematics and was allowed to devote extra time to that subject. Whitehead entered (1880) Trinity College, Cambridge, and attended only mathematics lectures. Elected to a fellowship in 1884 with a dissertation on Maxwell's theory of electricity and magnetism. He soon became more interested in pure mathematics and published the Treatise on Universal Algebra in 1898. He remained at Cambridge until 1910.

He had in some sense not made the grade in mathematics and had little prospects of a mathematics chair at Cambridge so he moved to the University of London. While in London he wrote the popular mathematics book An introduction to mathematics . In 1914 he became professor of applied mathematics at Imperial College of Science and Technology in London. In 1924 he accepted a chair in philosophy at Harvard University, where he taught until retirement in 1937.

Whitehead was working on a second volume of Universal Algebra which he abandoned in 1903. Bertrand Russell was Whitehead's student and in 1903 they began work on the 3 volume work Principia Mathematica (1910- 1913). This attempted to construct the foundations of mathematics on a rigorous logical basis.

As this work neared completion, Whitehead turned his attention to the philosophy of science. This interest arose out of the attempt to explain the relation of formal mathematical theories in physics to their basis in experience and was sparked by the revolution brought on by Einstein's general theory of relativity. In The Principle of Relativity (1922), Whitehead presented an alternative to Einstein's views.

Science and the Modern World (1925), a series of lectures given in the United States, served as an introduction to his later metaphysics. Whitehead's most important book, Process and Reality (1929), took this theory to a level of even greater generality.



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