William Whewell

William Whewell

Overview
William Whewell was an English
English people
The English are a nation and ethnic group native to England, who speak English. The English identity is of early mediaeval origin, when they were known in Old English as the Anglecynn. England is now a country of the United Kingdom, and the majority of English people in England are British Citizens...

 polymath
Polymath
A polymath is a person whose expertise spans a significant number of different subject areas. In less formal terms, a polymath may simply be someone who is very knowledgeable...

, scientist
Scientist
A scientist in a broad sense is one engaging in a systematic activity to acquire knowledge. In a more restricted sense, a scientist is an individual who uses the scientific method. The person may be an expert in one or more areas of science. This article focuses on the more restricted use of the word...

, Anglican priest
Priest
A priest is a person authorized to perform the sacred rites of a religion, especially as a mediatory agent between humans and deities. They also have the authority or power to administer religious rites; in particular, rites of sacrifice to, and propitiation of, a deity or deities...

, philosopher, theologian, and historian of science
History of science
The history of science is the study of the historical development of human understandings of the natural world and the domains of the social sciences....

. He was Master of Trinity College, Cambridge
Trinity College, Cambridge
Trinity College is a constituent college of the University of Cambridge. Trinity has more members than any other college in Cambridge or Oxford, with around 700 undergraduates, 430 graduates, and over 170 Fellows...

.

Whewell was born in Lancaster
Lancaster, Lancashire
Lancaster is the county town of Lancashire, England. It is situated on the River Lune and has a population of 45,952. Lancaster is a constituent settlement of the wider City of Lancaster, local government district which has a population of 133,914 and encompasses several outlying towns, including...

. His father, a carpenter, wished him to follow his trade, but his success in mathematics
Mathematics
Mathematics is the study of quantity, space, structure, and change. Mathematicians seek out patterns and formulate new conjectures. Mathematicians resolve the truth or falsity of conjectures by mathematical proofs, which are arguments sufficient to convince other mathematicians of their validity...

 at Lancaster and Heversham grammar school
Grammar school
A grammar school is one of several different types of school in the history of education in the United Kingdom and some other English-speaking countries, originally a school teaching classical languages but more recently an academically-oriented secondary school.The original purpose of mediaeval...

s won him an exhibition
Exhibition (scholarship)
-United Kingdom and Ireland:At the universities of Dublin, Oxford and Cambridge, and at Westminster School, Eton College and Winchester College, and various other UK educational establishments, an exhibition is a financial award or grant to an individual student, normally on grounds of merit. The...

 (a type of scholarship) at Trinity College, Cambridge
Trinity College, Cambridge
Trinity College is a constituent college of the University of Cambridge. Trinity has more members than any other college in Cambridge or Oxford, with around 700 undergraduates, 430 graduates, and over 170 Fellows...

 (1812). In 1814 he was awarded the Chancellor's Gold Medal
Chancellor's Gold Medal
The Chancellor's Gold Medal is a prestigious annual award at Cambridge University for poetry, paralleling Oxford University's Newdigate prize. It was first presented by Prince William Frederick, Duke of Gloucester and Edinburgh during his time as Chancellor of the University of Cambridge...

 for poetry. He was Second Wrangler in 1816, President of the Cambridge Union Society
Cambridge Union Society
The Cambridge Union Society, commonly referred to as simply "the Cambridge Union" or "the Union," is a debating society in Cambridge, England and is the largest society at the University of Cambridge. Since its founding in 1815, the Union has developed a worldwide reputation as a noted symbol of...

 in 1817, became fellow and tutor of his college, and, in 1841, succeeded Dr Christopher Wordsworth
Christopher Wordsworth (Trinity)
Christopher Wordsworth , was an English divine and scholar.Born in Cockermouth, Cumberland, he was the youngest brother of the poet William Wordsworth, and was educated at Trinity College, Cambridge, where he became a fellow in 1798.Twelve years later he received the degree of DD...

 as master.
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Unanswered Questions
Quotations

And so no force however great can stretch a cord however fine into an horizontal line which is accurately straight.

Elementary Treatise on Mechanics, The Equilibrium of Forces on a Point (1819)

We cannot observe external things without some degree of Thought; nor can we reflect upon our Thoughts, without being influenced in the course of our reflection by the Things which we have observed.

The Elements of Morality, Book 1, ch. 1. (1845)

Every failure is a step to success. Every detection of what is false directs us towards what is true: every trial exhausts some tempting form of error. Not only so; but scarcely any attempt is entirely a failure; scarcely any theory, the result of steady thought, is altogether false; no tempting form of Error is without some latent charm derived from Truth.

Lectures on the History of Moral Philosophy in England, Lecture 7. (1852)

By speaking of space as an Idea, I intend to imply...that the apprehension of objects as existing in space, and of the relations of position, &c., prevailing among them, is not a consequence of experience, but a result of a peculiar constitution and activity of the mind, which is independent of all experience in its origin, though constantly combined with experience in its exercise.

Part 1, Book 2, ch. 2, art. 1

Our assent to the hypothesis implies that it is held to be true of all particular instances. That these cases belong to past or to future times, that they have or have not already occurred, makes no difference in the applicability of the rule to them. Because the rule prevails, it includes all cases.

Part 2, Book 11, ch. 5, sect. 3, art. 10

The system becomes more coherent as it is further extended. The elements which we require for explaining a new class of facts are already contained in our system. Different members of the theory run together, and we have thus a constant convergence to unity. In false theories, the contrary is the case.

Part 2, Book 11, ch. 5, sect. 3, art. 12

Man is the interpreter of nature, science the right interpretation.

Aphorism 17

In art, truth is a means to an end; in science, it is the only end.

Aphorism 25

The catastrophist constructs theories, the uniformitarian demolishes them.

Aphorism 36
Encyclopedia
William Whewell was an English
English people
The English are a nation and ethnic group native to England, who speak English. The English identity is of early mediaeval origin, when they were known in Old English as the Anglecynn. England is now a country of the United Kingdom, and the majority of English people in England are British Citizens...

 polymath
Polymath
A polymath is a person whose expertise spans a significant number of different subject areas. In less formal terms, a polymath may simply be someone who is very knowledgeable...

, scientist
Scientist
A scientist in a broad sense is one engaging in a systematic activity to acquire knowledge. In a more restricted sense, a scientist is an individual who uses the scientific method. The person may be an expert in one or more areas of science. This article focuses on the more restricted use of the word...

, Anglican priest
Priest
A priest is a person authorized to perform the sacred rites of a religion, especially as a mediatory agent between humans and deities. They also have the authority or power to administer religious rites; in particular, rites of sacrifice to, and propitiation of, a deity or deities...

, philosopher, theologian, and historian of science
History of science
The history of science is the study of the historical development of human understandings of the natural world and the domains of the social sciences....

. He was Master of Trinity College, Cambridge
Trinity College, Cambridge
Trinity College is a constituent college of the University of Cambridge. Trinity has more members than any other college in Cambridge or Oxford, with around 700 undergraduates, 430 graduates, and over 170 Fellows...

.

Life and career


Whewell was born in Lancaster
Lancaster, Lancashire
Lancaster is the county town of Lancashire, England. It is situated on the River Lune and has a population of 45,952. Lancaster is a constituent settlement of the wider City of Lancaster, local government district which has a population of 133,914 and encompasses several outlying towns, including...

. His father, a carpenter, wished him to follow his trade, but his success in mathematics
Mathematics
Mathematics is the study of quantity, space, structure, and change. Mathematicians seek out patterns and formulate new conjectures. Mathematicians resolve the truth or falsity of conjectures by mathematical proofs, which are arguments sufficient to convince other mathematicians of their validity...

 at Lancaster and Heversham grammar school
Grammar school
A grammar school is one of several different types of school in the history of education in the United Kingdom and some other English-speaking countries, originally a school teaching classical languages but more recently an academically-oriented secondary school.The original purpose of mediaeval...

s won him an exhibition
Exhibition (scholarship)
-United Kingdom and Ireland:At the universities of Dublin, Oxford and Cambridge, and at Westminster School, Eton College and Winchester College, and various other UK educational establishments, an exhibition is a financial award or grant to an individual student, normally on grounds of merit. The...

 (a type of scholarship) at Trinity College, Cambridge
Trinity College, Cambridge
Trinity College is a constituent college of the University of Cambridge. Trinity has more members than any other college in Cambridge or Oxford, with around 700 undergraduates, 430 graduates, and over 170 Fellows...

 (1812). In 1814 he was awarded the Chancellor's Gold Medal
Chancellor's Gold Medal
The Chancellor's Gold Medal is a prestigious annual award at Cambridge University for poetry, paralleling Oxford University's Newdigate prize. It was first presented by Prince William Frederick, Duke of Gloucester and Edinburgh during his time as Chancellor of the University of Cambridge...

 for poetry. He was Second Wrangler in 1816, President of the Cambridge Union Society
Cambridge Union Society
The Cambridge Union Society, commonly referred to as simply "the Cambridge Union" or "the Union," is a debating society in Cambridge, England and is the largest society at the University of Cambridge. Since its founding in 1815, the Union has developed a worldwide reputation as a noted symbol of...

 in 1817, became fellow and tutor of his college, and, in 1841, succeeded Dr Christopher Wordsworth
Christopher Wordsworth (Trinity)
Christopher Wordsworth , was an English divine and scholar.Born in Cockermouth, Cumberland, he was the youngest brother of the poet William Wordsworth, and was educated at Trinity College, Cambridge, where he became a fellow in 1798.Twelve years later he received the degree of DD...

 as master. He was professor
Professor
A professor is a scholarly teacher; the precise meaning of the term varies by country. Literally, professor derives from Latin as a "person who professes" being usually an expert in arts or sciences; a teacher of high rank...

 of mineralogy
Mineralogy
Mineralogy is the study of chemistry, crystal structure, and physical properties of minerals. Specific studies within mineralogy include the processes of mineral origin and formation, classification of minerals, their geographical distribution, as well as their utilization.-History:Early writing...

 from 1828 to 1832 and Knightbridge Professor of Philosophy
Knightbridge Professor of Philosophy
The Knightbridge Professorship of Philosophy is the senior professorship in philosophy at the University of Cambridge.One of the oldest professorships in Cambridge, the chair was founded in 1683 by John Knightbridge, fellow of Peterhouse....

 (then called "moral theology and casuistical divinity") from 1838 to 1855.

Whewell died in Cambridge 1866 as a result of a fall from his horse.

Full bibliographical details are given by Isaac Todhunter, W. Whewell: an Account of his Writings (2 vols., 1876). See also Life of W. Whewell, by Mrs Stair Douglas (1881).

Multiple disciplines


What is most often remarked about Whewell is the breadth of his endeavours. At a time when men of science were becoming increasingly specialised, Whewell appears as a vestige of an earlier era when men of science dabbled in a bit of everything. He researched ocean tides (for which he won the Royal Medal), published work in the disciplines of mechanics
Mechanics
Mechanics is the branch of physics concerned with the behavior of physical bodies when subjected to forces or displacements, and the subsequent effects of the bodies on their environment....

, physics
Physics
Physics is a natural science that involves the study of matter and its motion through spacetime, along with related concepts such as energy and force. More broadly, it is the general analysis of nature, conducted in order to understand how the universe behaves.Physics is one of the oldest academic...

, geology
Geology
Geology is the science comprising the study of solid Earth, the rocks of which it is composed, and the processes by which it evolves. Geology gives insight into the history of the Earth, as it provides the primary evidence for plate tectonics, the evolutionary history of life, and past climates...

, astronomy
Astronomy
Astronomy is a natural science that deals with the study of celestial objects and phenomena that originate outside the atmosphere of Earth...

, and economics
Economics
Economics is the social science that analyzes the production, distribution, and consumption of goods and services. The term economics comes from the Ancient Greek from + , hence "rules of the house"...

, while also finding the time to compose poetry
Poetry
Poetry is a form of literary art in which language is used for its aesthetic and evocative qualities in addition to, or in lieu of, its apparent meaning...

, author a Bridgewater Treatise, translate the works of Goethe, and write sermon
Sermon
A sermon is an oration by a prophet or member of the clergy. Sermons address a Biblical, theological, religious, or moral topic, usually expounding on a type of belief, law or behavior within both past and present contexts...

s and theological
Theology
Theology is the systematic and rational study of religion and its influences and of the nature of religious truths, or the learned profession acquired by completing specialized training in religious studies, usually at a university or school of divinity or seminary.-Definition:Augustine of Hippo...

 tracts.

Tracing the history and development of science



For all these pursuits, it comes as no surprise that his best-known works are two voluminous books which attempt to map and systematize the development of the sciences, History of the Inductive Sciences (1837) and The Philosophy of the Inductive Sciences, Founded Upon Their History (1840). While the History traced how each branch of the sciences had evolved since antiquity, Whewell viewed the Philosophy as the “Moral” of the previous work as it sought to extract a universal theory of knowledge through the history he had just traced. In the Philosophy, Whewell attempted to follow Francis Bacon's plan for discovery of an effectual art of discovery. He examined ideas ("explication of conceptions") and by the "colligation of facts" endeavoured to unite these ideas with the facts and so construct science. But no art of discovery, such as Bacon anticipated, follows, for "invention, sagacity, genius" are needed at each step.

Whewell's three steps of induction


Whewell analysed inductive reasoning
Inductive reasoning
Inductive reasoning, also known as induction or inductive logic, is a kind of reasoning that constructs or evaluates propositions that are abstractions of observations. It is commonly construed as a form of reasoning that makes generalizations based on individual instances...

 into three steps:
  • The selection of the (fundamental) idea, such as space, number, cause, or likeness (resemblance);
  • The formation of the conception, or more special modification of those ideas, as a circle, a uniform force, etc.; and,
  • The determination of magnitudes.


Upon these follow special methods of induction applicable to quantity: the method of curves, the method of means, the method of least squares and the method of residues, and special methods depending on resemblance (to which the transition is made through the law of continuity), such as the method of gradation and the method of natural classification. In biology of the Inductive Sciences Whewell was the first to use the term "consilience
Consilience
Consilience, or the unity of knowledge , has its roots in the ancient Greek concept of an intrinsic orderliness that governs our cosmos, inherently comprehensible by logical process, a vision at odds with mystical views in many cultures that surrounded the Hellenes...

" to discuss the unification of knowledge between the different branches of learning.

Opponent of English empiricism


Here, as in his ethical
Ethics
Ethics, also known as moral philosophy, is a branch of philosophy that addresses questions about morality—that is, concepts such as good and evil, right and wrong, virtue and vice, justice and crime, etc.Major branches of ethics include:...

 doctrine, Whewell was moved by opposition to contemporary English empiricism
Empiricism
Empiricism is a theory of knowledge that asserts that knowledge comes only or primarily via sensory experience. One of several views of epistemology, the study of human knowledge, along with rationalism, idealism and historicism, empiricism emphasizes the role of experience and evidence,...

. Following Immanuel Kant
Immanuel Kant
Immanuel Kant was a German philosopher from Königsberg , researching, lecturing and writing on philosophy and anthropology at the end of the 18th Century Enlightenment....

, he asserted against John Stuart Mill
John Stuart Mill
John Stuart Mill was a British philosopher, economist and civil servant. An influential contributor to social theory, political theory, and political economy, his conception of liberty justified the freedom of the individual in opposition to unlimited state control. He was a proponent of...

 the a priori
A priori and a posteriori (philosophy)
The terms a priori and a posteriori are used in philosophy to distinguish two types of knowledge, justifications or arguments...

nature of necessary truth, and by his rules for the construction of conceptions he dispensed with the inductive methods of Mill.

Whewell's neologisms


One of Whewell's greatest gifts to science was his wordsmithing. He often corresponded with many in his field and helped them come up with new terms for their discoveries. In fact, Whewell came up with the term scientist
Scientist
A scientist in a broad sense is one engaging in a systematic activity to acquire knowledge. In a more restricted sense, a scientist is an individual who uses the scientific method. The person may be an expert in one or more areas of science. This article focuses on the more restricted use of the word...

itself. (They had previously been known as "natural philosophers" or "men of science"). Whewell also contributed the terms physicist
Physicist
A physicist is a scientist who studies or practices physics. Physicists study a wide range of physical phenomena in many branches of physics spanning all length scales: from sub-atomic particles of which all ordinary matter is made to the behavior of the material Universe as a whole...

, consilience
Consilience
Consilience, or the unity of knowledge , has its roots in the ancient Greek concept of an intrinsic orderliness that governs our cosmos, inherently comprehensible by logical process, a vision at odds with mystical views in many cultures that surrounded the Hellenes...

, catastrophism
Catastrophism
Catastrophism is the theory that the Earth has been affected in the past by sudden, short-lived, violent events, possibly worldwide in scope. The dominant paradigm of modern geology is uniformitarianism , in which slow incremental changes, such as erosion, create the Earth's appearance...

, and uniformitarianism
Uniformitarianism (science)
In the philosophy of naturalism, the uniformitarianism assumption is that the same natural laws and processes that operate in the universe now, have always operated in the universe in the past and apply everywhere in the universe. It has included the gradualistic concept that "the present is the...

, amongst others; Whewell suggested the terms anode
Anode
An anode is an electrode through which electric current flows into a polarized electrical device. Mnemonic: ACID ....

 and cathode
Cathode
A cathode is an electrode through which electric current flows out of a polarized electrical device. Mnemonic: CCD .Cathode polarity is not always negative...

 to Michael Faraday
Michael Faraday
Michael Faraday, FRS was an English chemist and physicist who contributed to the fields of electromagnetism and electrochemistry....

.

Mathematics


Whewell introduced what is now called the Whewell equation
Whewell equation
The Whewell equation of a plane curve is an equation that relates the tangential angle with arclength , where the tangential angle is angle between the tangent to the curve and the x-axis and the arc length is the distance along the curve from a fixed point...

, an equation defining the shape of a curve without reference to an arbitrarily chosen coordinate system.

Work in college administration


Whewell was prominent not only in scientific research and philosophy, but also in university
University
A university is an institution of higher education and research, which grants academic degrees in a variety of subjects. A university is an organisation that provides both undergraduate education and postgraduate education...

 and college administration. His first work, An Elementary Treatise on Mechanics (1819), cooperated with those of George Peacock
George Peacock
George Peacock was an English mathematician.-Life:Peacock was born on 9 April 1791 at Thornton Hall, Denton, near Darlington, County Durham. His father, the Rev. Thomas Peacock, was a clergyman of the Church of England, incumbent and for 50 years curate of the parish of Denton, where he also kept...

 and John Herschel
John Herschel
Sir John Frederick William Herschel, 1st Baronet KH, FRS ,was an English mathematician, astronomer, chemist, and experimental photographer/inventor, who in some years also did valuable botanical work...

 in reforming the Cambridge method of mathematical teaching. His work and publications also helped influence the recognition of the moral and natural sciences as an integral part of the Cambridge curriculum. In general, however, especially in later years, he opposed reform: he defended the tutorial system
Tutorial system
At Cambridge University, Oxford University and Queen's University Belfast, undergraduates are taught in the tutorial system. Students are taught by faculty fellows in groups of one to three on a weekly basis...

, and in a controversy with Connop Thirlwall
Connop Thirlwall
Connop Thirlwall was an English bishop and historian.-Early life:Thirlwall was born at Stepney, London, of a Northumbrian family. He was a prodigy, learning Latin at three, Greek at four, and writing sermons at seven.He went to Charterhouse School, where George Grote and Julius Hare were among...

 (1834), opposed the admission of Dissenter
Dissenter
The term dissenter , labels one who disagrees in matters of opinion, belief, etc. In the social and religious history of England and Wales, however, it refers particularly to a member of a religious body who has, for one reason or another, separated from the Established Church.Originally, the term...

s; he upheld the clerical fellowship system, the privileged class of "fellow-commoners," and the authority of heads of colleges in university affairs. He opposed the appointment of the University Commission (1850), and wrote two pamphlets (Remarks) against the reform of the university (1855). He stood against the scheme of entrusting elections to the members of the senate and instead, advocated the use of college funds and the subvention of scientific and professorial work.

Whewell's interests in architecture


Aside from Science, Whewell was also interested in the history of architecture
History of architecture
The history of architecture traces the changes in architecture through various traditions, regions, overarching stylistic trends, and dates.-Neolithic architecture:Neolithic architecture is the architecture of the Neolithic period...

 throughout his life. He is best known for his writings on Gothic architecture
Gothic architecture
Gothic architecture is a style of architecture that flourished during the high and late medieval period. It evolved from Romanesque architecture and was succeeded by Renaissance architecture....

, specifically his book, Architectural Notes on German Churches (first published in 1830). In this work, Whewell established a strict nomenclature for German Gothic churches and came up with a theory of stylistic development. His work is associated with the "scientific trend" of architectural writers, along with Thomas Rickman
Thomas Rickman
Thomas Rickman , was an English architect who was a major figure in the Gothic Revival.He was born at Maidenhead, Berkshire, into a large Quaker family, and avoided the medical career envisaged for him by his father, a grocer and druggist; he went into business for himself and married his first...

 and Robert Willis.

Whewell's works in philosophy and morals


Between 1835 and 1861 Whewell produced various works on the philosophy of moral
Moral
A moral is a message conveyed or a lesson to be learned from a story or event. The moral may be left to the hearer, reader or viewer to determine for themselves, or may be explicitly encapsulated in a maxim...

s and politics
Politics
Politics is a process by which groups of people make collective decisions. The term is generally applied to the art or science of running governmental or state affairs, including behavior within civil governments, but also applies to institutions, fields, and special interest groups such as the...

, the chief of which, Elements of Morality, including Polity, was published in 1845. The peculiarity of this work—written from what is known as the intuitional point of view
Intuition (knowledge)
Intuition is the ability to acquire knowledge without inference or the use of reason. "The word 'intuition' comes from the Latin word 'intueri', which is often roughly translated as meaning 'to look inside'’ or 'to contemplate'." Intuition provides us with beliefs that we cannot necessarily justify...

--is its fivefold division of the springs of action and of their objects, of the primary and universal rights of man (personal security, property, contract, family rights and government), and of the cardinal virtues (benevolence, justice
Justice
Justice is a concept of moral rightness based on ethics, rationality, law, natural law, religion, or equity, along with the punishment of the breach of said ethics; justice is the act of being just and/or fair.-Concept of justice:...

, truth
Truth
Truth has a variety of meanings, such as the state of being in accord with fact or reality. It can also mean having fidelity to an original or to a standard or ideal. In a common usage, it also means constancy or sincerity in action or character...

, purity and order
Social order
Social order is a concept used in sociology, history and other social sciences. It refers to a set of linked social structures, social institutions and social practices which conserve, maintain and enforce "normal" ways of relating and behaving....

).

Among Whewell's other works—too numerous to mention—were popular writings such as the third Bridgewater Treatise Astronomy and General Physics considered with reference to Natural Theology (1833), and the essay, Of the Plurality of Worlds (1853), in which he argued against the probability
Probability
Probability is ordinarily used to describe an attitude of mind towards some proposition of whose truth we arenot certain. The proposition of interest is usually of the form "Will a specific event occur?" The attitude of mind is of the form "How certain are we that the event will occur?" The...

 of life on other planets
Extraterrestrial life
Extraterrestrial life is defined as life that does not originate from Earth...

, and also the Plato
Plato
Plato , was a Classical Greek philosopher, mathematician, student of Socrates, writer of philosophical dialogues, and founder of the Academy in Athens, the first institution of higher learning in the Western world. Along with his mentor, Socrates, and his student, Aristotle, Plato helped to lay the...

nic Dialogues for English Readers
(1850–1861), the Lectures on the History of Moral Philosophy in England (1852), the essay, Of a Liberal Education in General, with particular reference to the Leading Studies of the University of Cambridge (1845), the important edition and abridged translation of Hugo Grotius
Hugo Grotius
Hugo Grotius , also known as Huig de Groot, Hugo Grocio or Hugo de Groot, was a jurist in the Dutch Republic. With Francisco de Vitoria and Alberico Gentili he laid the foundations for international law, based on natural law...

, De jure belli ac pacis
De jure belli ac pacis
De jure belli ac pacis is a 1625 book in Latin, written by Hugo Grotius and published in Paris, on the legal status of war. It is now regarded as a foundational work in international law....

(1853), and the edition of the Mathematical Works of Isaac Barrow
Isaac Barrow
Isaac Barrow was an English Christian theologian, and mathematician who is generally given credit for his early role in the development of infinitesimal calculus; in particular, for the discovery of the fundamental theorem of calculus. His work centered on the properties of the tangent; Barrow was...

 (1860).

Whewell was one of the Cambridge don
University don
A don is a fellow or tutor of a college or university, especially traditional collegiate universities such as Oxford and Cambridge in England.The term — similar to the title still used for Catholic priests — is a historical remnant of Oxford and Cambridge having started as ecclesiastical...

s whom Charles Darwin
Charles Darwin
Charles Robert Darwin FRS was an English naturalist. He established that all species of life have descended over time from common ancestry, and proposed the scientific theory that this branching pattern of evolution resulted from a process that he called natural selection.He published his theory...

 met during his education there
Charles Darwin's education
Charles Darwin's education gave him a foundation in the doctrine of Creation prevalent throughout the West at the time, as well as knowledge of medicine and theology. More significantly, it led to his interest in natural history, which culminated in his taking part in the second voyage of the...

, and after the Beagle voyage
Second voyage of HMS Beagle
The second voyage of HMS Beagle, from 27 December 1831 to 2 October 1836, was the second survey expedition of HMS Beagle, under captain Robert FitzRoy who had taken over command of the ship on its first voyage after her previous captain committed suicide...

 when Darwin was at the very start of The Origin of Species
The Origin of Species
Charles Darwin's On the Origin of Species, published on 24 November 1859, is a work of scientific literature which is considered to be the foundation of evolutionary biology. Its full title was On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the...

Darwin placed a citation from Whewell's Bridgewater Treatise showing his ideas to be founded on a natural theology
Natural theology
Natural theology is a branch of theology based on reason and ordinary experience. Thus it is distinguished from revealed theology which is based on scripture and religious experiences of various kinds; and also from transcendental theology, theology from a priori reasoning.Marcus Terentius Varro ...

 of a creator establishing laws:

"But with regard to the material world, we can at least go so
far as this-we can perceive that events are brought about not by
insulated interpositions of Divine power, exerted in each particular
case, but by the establishment of general laws."

Checklist of works by Whewell


(1831) Review of J. Herschel's Preliminary discourse on the study of Natural Philosophy (1830), Quarterly Review 90: 374-407.

(1833) Astronomy and general physics considered with reference to Natural Theology (Bridgewater Treatise). Cambridge.

(1837) History of the Inductive Sciences, from the Earliest to the Present Times. 3 vols, London. 2nd ed 1847. 3rd ed 1857. 1st German ed 1840-41.

(1840) The Philosophy of the Inductive Sciences, founded upon their history. 2 vols, London. 2nd ed 1847. Volume 1. Volume 2.

(1845) The Elements of Morality, including polity. 2 vols, London. Volume 2.

(1846) Lectures on systematic Morality. London.

(1849) Of Induction, with especial reference to Mr. J. Stuart Mill's System of Logic. London.

(1850) Mathematical exposition of some doctrines of political economy: second memoir. Transactions of the Cambridge Philosophical Society 9:128-49.

(1852) Lectures on the history of Moral Philosophy. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

(1853) Of the Plurality of Worlds. London.

(1857) Spedding's complete edition of the works of Bacon. Edinburgh Review 106:287-322.

(1858a) The history of scientific ideas. 2 vols, London.

(1858b) Novum Organon renovatum, London.

(1860a) On the philosophy of discovery: chapters historical and critical. London.

(1861) Plato's Republic (translation). Cambridge.

(1862) Six Lectures on Political Economy, Cambridge.

(1862) Additional Lectures on the History of Moral Philosophy, Cambridge.

(1866) Comte and Positivism. Macmillan's Magazine 13:353-62.

Honors and recognitions

  • The crater Whewell
    Whewell (crater)
    Whewell is a lunar impact crater that lies on a stretch of lava-resurfaced terrain to the west of Mare Tranquillitatis. It is located to the east of the disintegrated crater Tempel and north-northwest of D'Arrest...

     on the Moon
    Moon
    The Moon is Earth's only known natural satellite,There are a number of near-Earth asteroids including 3753 Cruithne that are co-orbital with Earth: their orbits bring them close to Earth for periods of time but then alter in the long term . These are quasi-satellites and not true moons. For more...

  • The Gothic
    Gothic architecture
    Gothic architecture is a style of architecture that flourished during the high and late medieval period. It evolved from Romanesque architecture and was succeeded by Renaissance architecture....

     buildings known as Whewell's Court in Trinity College, Cambridge
    Trinity College, Cambridge
    Trinity College is a constituent college of the University of Cambridge. Trinity has more members than any other college in Cambridge or Oxford, with around 700 undergraduates, 430 graduates, and over 170 Fellows...

  • The mineral whewellite
    Whewellite
    Whewellite is a mineral, hydrated calcium oxalate, formula CaC2O4·H2O. Because of its organic content it is thought to have an indirect biological origin and this is supported by it being found in coal and sedimentary nodules. However, it has also been found in hydrothermal deposits where a...

  • The debating society at Lancaster Royal Grammar School
    Lancaster Royal Grammar School
    Lancaster Royal Grammar School is a voluntary aided, selective grammar school for boys in Lancaster, England. The school has been awarded specialist Technology College and Language College status. Old boys belong to The Old Lancastrians...

     is named the Whewell Society in honour of Whewell being an Old Lancastrian.

See also

  • Catastrophism
    Catastrophism
    Catastrophism is the theory that the Earth has been affected in the past by sudden, short-lived, violent events, possibly worldwide in scope. The dominant paradigm of modern geology is uniformitarianism , in which slow incremental changes, such as erosion, create the Earth's appearance...

  • Uniformitarianism
    Uniformitarianism (science)
    In the philosophy of naturalism, the uniformitarianism assumption is that the same natural laws and processes that operate in the universe now, have always operated in the universe in the past and apply everywhere in the universe. It has included the gradualistic concept that "the present is the...

  • Earl of Bridgewater for other Bridgewater Treatise
  • Law of three stages
    Law of three stages
    The Law of Three Stages is an idea developed by Auguste Comte. It states that society as a whole, and each particular science, develops through three mentally conceived stages: the theological stage, the metaphysical stage, and the positive stage....

     for Whewell's opposition to Auguste Comte's positivism
    Positivism
    Positivism is a a view of scientific methods and a philosophical approach, theory, or system based on the view that, in the social as well as natural sciences, sensory experiences and their logical and mathematical treatment are together the exclusive source of all worthwhile information....

  • Michael Faraday
    Michael Faraday
    Michael Faraday, FRS was an English chemist and physicist who contributed to the fields of electromagnetism and electrochemistry....


Further reading

  • Whewell, W., Astronomy and General Physics Considered with Reference to Natural Theology; Bridgewater Treatises, W. Pickering, 1833 (reissued by Cambridge University Press
    Cambridge University Press
    Cambridge University Press is the publishing business of the University of Cambridge. Granted letters patent by Henry VIII in 1534, it is the world's oldest publishing house, and the second largest university press in the world...

    , 2009; ISBN 9781108000123)
  • Whewell, W., Of the Plurality of Worlds. An Essay; J. W. Parker and son, 1853 (reissued by Cambridge University Press
    Cambridge University Press
    Cambridge University Press is the publishing business of the University of Cambridge. Granted letters patent by Henry VIII in 1534, it is the world's oldest publishing house, and the second largest university press in the world...

    , 2009; ISBN 9781108000185)

External links