Born in Trelleck, Wales, on May 18, 1872, Russell was educated at Trinity College, University of Cambridge. After graduation in 1894, he traveled in France, Germany, and the United States and was then made a fellow of Trinity College. From an early age he developed a strong sense of social consciousness; at the same time, he involved himself in the study of logical and mathematical questions, which he had made his special fields and on which he was called to lecture at many institutions throughout the world.
He achieved prominence with his first major work, The Principles of Mathematics (1902), in which he attempted to remove mathematics from the realm of abstract philosophical notions and to give it a precise scientific framework.
Russell then collaborated for eight years with the British philosopher and mathematician Alfred North Whitehead to produce the monumental work Principia Mathematica (3 volumes, 1910-1913). This work showed that mathematics can be stated in terms of the concepts of general logic, such as class and membership in a class. It became a masterpiece of rational thought. Russell and Whitehead proved that numbers can be defined as classes of a certain type, and in the process they developed logic concepts and a logic notation that established symbolic logic as an important specialization within the field of philosophy.
In his next major work, The Problems of Philosophy (1912), Russell borrowed from the fields of sociology, psychology, physics, and mathematics to refute the tenets of idealism, the dominant philosophical school of the period, which held that all objects and experiences are the product of the intellect. Russell, a realist, believed that objects perceived by the senses have an inherent reality independent of the mind.
Russell taught at Beijing University in China during 1921 and 1922. From 1928 to 1932, after he returned to England, he conducted the private, highly progressive Beacon Hill School for young children. From 1938 to 1944 he taught at various educational institutions in the United States. He was barred, however, from teaching at the College of the City of New York (now City College of the City University of New York) by the state supreme court because of his attacks on religion in such works as What I Believe (1925) and his advocacy of sexual freedom, expressed in
"Russell, Bertrand Arthur William, 3rd Earl Russell,"
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