Alexander Bain

Alexander Bain (11 June 1818 – 18 September 1903) was a Scottish philosopher and educationalist in the British school of empiricism and a prominent and innovative figure in the fields of psychology, linguistics, logic, moral philosophy and education reform. He founded Mind, the first ever journal of psychology and analytical philosophy, and was the leading figure in establishing and applying the scientific method to psychology. Bain was the inaugural Regius Chair in Logic and Professor of Logic at the University of Aberdeen, where he also held Professorships in Moral Philosophy and English Literature and was twice elected Lord Rector of the University of Aberdeen.

Regius Professor and Lord Rector
Alexander Bain
Born11 June 1818
Aberdeen, Scotland
Died18 September 1903 (aged 85)
Aberdeen, Scotland
Alma materMarischal College (MA (Hons))
Known for
  • The Senses and the Intellect
  • The Emotions and the Will
  • Mental and Moral Science
  • Education as a Science
  • Mind
Scientific career

Early life and education

Alexander Bain was born in Aberdeen to George Bain, a weaver and veteran soldier, and Margaret Paul. At age eleven he left school to work as a weaver[1] hence the description of him as Weevir, rex philosophorum. He also took to lectures at the Mechanics' Institutes of Aberdeen and the Aberdeen Public Library.

In 1836 he entered Marischal College where he came under the influence of Professor of Mathematics John Cruickshank, Professor of Chemistry Thomas Clark and Professor of Natural Philosophy William Knight. Towards the end of his undergraduate degree he became a contributor to the Westminster Review with his first article entitled "Electrotype and Daguerreotype," published in September 1840. This was the beginning of his connection with John Stuart Mill, which led to a lifelong friendship. He was awarded the Blue Ribbon and also the Gray Mathematical Bursary. His college career and studies was distinguished especially in mental philosophy, mathematics and physics and he graduated with a Master of Arts with Highest Honours.

In 1841, Bain substituted for Dr. Glennie the Professor of Moral Philosophy, who, due to ill-health, was unable to discharge his academic duties. He continued to do this three successive terms, during which he continued writing for the Westminster, and also helped John Stuart Mill with the revision of the manuscript of his System of Logic (1842). In 1843 he contributed the first review of the book to the London and Westminster.

Academic career

Bain - James Mill, 1882 - 5825460
James Mill, 1882

In 1845 he was appointed Professor of Mathematics and Natural Philosophy at Anderson's University in Glasgow. A year later, preferring a wider field, he resigned the position and devoted himself to writing. In 1848 he moved to London to fill a post in the Board of Health under Sir Edwin Chadwick where he worked for social reform and became a prominent member of the intellectual circle which included George Grote and John Stuart Mill. In 1855 he published his first major work, The Senses and the Intellect, followed in 1859 by The Emotions and the Will. These treatises won him a position among independent thinkers. Bain was also Examiner in Logic and Moral Philosophy from 1857–1862 and 1864–1869 for the University of London and also an Instructor in moral science for the Indian Civil Service examinations.

In 1860 he was appointed by the British Crown to the inaugural Regius Chair of Logic and the Regius Chair of English Literature at the University of Aberdeen, which was newly formed after the amalgamation of King's College, Aberdeen and Marischal College by the Scottish Universities Commission of 1858.


Until 1858, neither logic nor English had received adequate attention in Aberdeen, and Bain devoted himself to supplying these deficiencies. He succeeded not only in raising the Standard of Education generally in the North of Scotland, but also in establishing a School of Philosophy at the University of Aberdeen, and in widely influencing the teaching of English grammar and composition in the United Kingdom. His efforts were first directed to the preparation of textbooks: Higher English Grammar[2] and An English Grammar[3] were both published in 1863, followed in 1866 by the Manual of Rhetoric, in 1872 by A First English Grammar, and in 1874 by the Companion to the Higher Grammar. These works were wide-ranging and their original views and methods met with wide acceptance.


Bain's philosophical writings already published, especially The Senses and the Intellect to which was added in 1861 The Study of Character including an Estimate of Phrenology, were too large for effective use in the classroom. Accordingly, in 1868, he published his Manual of Mental and Moral Science, mainly a condensed form of his treatises, with the doctrines re-stated, and in many instances freshly illustrated, and with many important additions. The year 1870 saw the publication of the Logic.[4][5] This, too, was a work designed for the use of students; it was based on John Stuart Mill, but differed from him in many particulars, and was distinctive for its treatment of the doctrine of the conservation of energy in connection with causation and the detailed application of the principles of logic to the various sciences with a section on the classification of all the sciences. Next came two publications in the "International Scientific Series", namely, Mind and Body (1872),[6] and Education as a Science (1879).[7] All these works, from the Higher English Grammar downwards, were written by Bain during his twenty years as a Professor at the University of Aberdeen. He also started the philosophical journal, Mind; the first number appeared in January 1876, under the editorship of a former pupil, George Croom Robertson, of University College London. To this journal Bain contributed many important articles and discussions; and in fact he bore the whole expenses of it till Robertson, owing to ill-health, resigned the editorship in 1891 and George Stout took up the baton.


Although his influence as a logician and linguist in grammar and rhetoric was considerable, his reputation rests on his works in psychology. At one with the German physiologist and comparative anatomist Johannes Peter Müller in the conviction psychologus nemo nisi physiologus (one is not a psychologist who is not also a physiologist), he was the first in Great Britain during the 19th century to apply physiology in a thoroughgoing fashion to the elucidation of mental states. In discussing the will, he favoured physiological over metaphysical explanations, pointing to reflexes as evidence that a form of will, independent of consciousness, inheres in a person's limbs. He sought to chart physiological correlates of mental states but refused to make any materialistic assumptions.[8] He was the originator of the theory of psychophysical parallelism which is used widely as a working basis by modern psychologists. His idea of applying the scientific method of classification to psychical phenomena gave scientific character to his work, the value of which was enhanced by his methodical exposition and his command of illustration. In line with this, too, is his demand that psychology should be cleared of metaphysics; and to his lead is no doubt due in great measure the position that psychology has now acquired as a distinct positive science. Bain established psychology, as influenced by David Hume and Auguste Comte, as a more distinct discipline of science through application of the scientific method. Bain proposed that physiological and psychological processes were linked, and that traditional psychology could be explained in terms of this association. Moreover, he proposed that all knowledge and all mental processes had to be based on actual physical sensations, and not on spontaneous thoughts and ideas, and attempted to identify the link between the mind and the body and to discover the correlations between mental and behavioural phenomena.

William James calls his work the "last word" of the earlier stage of psychology, but he was in reality the pioneer of the new. Subsequent psycho-physical investigations "have all been in" the spirit of his work; and although he consistently advocated the introspective method in psychological investigation, he was among the first to appreciate the help that may be given to it by social psychology, comparative psychology and developmental psychology. He may justly claim the merit of having guided the awakened psychological interest of British thinkers of the second half of the 19th century into fruitful channels. Bain emphasised the importance of our active experiences of movement and effort, and though his theory of a central innervation sense is no longer held as he propounded it, its value as a suggestion to later psychologists is great. His thought that a belief is but a preparation for action is respected by both pragmatism and functionalism.[9]

Other works

Bain's autobiography, published in 1904, contains a full list of his works, and also the history of the last thirteen years of his life by Professor W. L. Davidson of the University of Aberdeen, who further contributed to Mind (April 1904) a review of Bain's services to philosophy.[10] Further works include editions with notes of Paley's Moral Philosophy (1852); Education as a Science (1879); Dissertations on leading philosophical topics (1903, mainly reprints of papers in Mind); he collaborated with JS Mill and Grote in editing James Mill's Analysis of the Phenomena of the Human Mind (1869), and assisted in editing Grote's Aristotle and Minor Works; he also wrote a memoir prefixed to G Croom Robertson's Philosophical Remains (1894).

Social Reform

Bain took a keen interest in social justice and development and was frequently an active part in the political and social movements of the day; after his retirement from the Chair of Logic, he was twice elected Lord Rector of the University of Aberdeen each term of office extending over three years. He was a strenuous advocate of reform, especially in the teaching of sciences, and supported the claims of modern languages to a place in the curriculum. Moreover, he was an avid supporter for Student rights and in 1884 the Aberdeen University Debating Society took the first steps towards the introduction of a Students' Representative Council and later Aberdeen University Students' Association under his support.

Bain was a member of the Committee of the Aberdeen Public Library throughout his life as well as the School Board of Aberdeen. Furthermore, Professor Bain gave lectures and wrote papers for the Mechanics' Institutes of Aberdeen and served as the Secretary of its Committee.

His services to education and social reform in Scotland were recognised by the conferment of the honorary degree of Doctor of law by the University of Edinburgh in 1871. A marble bust of him stands in the Aberdeen Public Library and his portrait hangs in Marischal College.

Later life and death

Bain retired from his Chair and Professorship from the University of Aberdeen and was succeeded by William Minto, one of his most brilliant pupils. Nevertheless, his interest in thought, and his desire to complete the scheme of work mapped out in earlier years, remained as keen as ever. Accordingly, in 1882 appeared the Biography of James Mill, and accompanying it John Stuart Mill: a Criticism, with Personal Recollections.[11] Next came (1884) a collection of articles and papers, most of which had appeared in magazines, under the title of Practical Essays. This was succeeded (1887, 1888) by a new edition of the Rhetoric, and along with it, a book On Teaching English, being an exhaustive application of the principles of rhetoric to the criticism of style, for the use of teachers; and in 1894 he published a revised edition of The Senses and the Intellect, which contain his last word on psychology. In 1894 also appeared his last contribution to Mind. His last years were spent in privacy at Aberdeen, where he died on 18 September 1903. He married twice but left no children. His last request was that "no stone should be placed upon his grave: his books, he said, would be his monument."[12]

The University of Aberdeen Philosophy Department established the Bain Medal in 1883. It is awarded annually to the best candidate who gains First Class Honours in Mental Philosophy.

As Professor William L. Davidson wrote in Bain's obituary in Mind "In Dr. Bain's death, psychology has sustained a great loss; but so too has education and practical reform. It is rare to find a philosopher who combines philosophical with educational and practical interests, and who is also an active force in the community in which he dwells. Such a combination was here. Let us not fail to appreciate it."


  • "Early Life of James Mill", from Mind, Vol. 1, No. 1 (January 1876).
  • Review of Herbert Spencer's Principles of Sociology, from Mind, Vol. 1, No. 1 (January 1876).
  • "Mr. G. H. Lewes and the Postulates of Experience", from Mind, Vol. 1, No. 1 (January 1876).
  • Education as a Science, New York: D. Appleton and Company, 1884
  • Practical Essays
  • Dissertations on Leading Philosophical Topics
  • Autobiography by Alexander Bain LL.D. London: Longmans, Green & Co. 1904.
  • Elements of chemistry and electricity: in two parts
  • Astronomy
  • James Mill, A Biography (1 ed.), London: Logmans, Green & Co., 1882, retrieved 11 December 2012
  • John Stuart Mill: A Criticism: With Personal Recollections, London: Longmans, Green & Co., 1882
  • The Art of Study
  • Is There Such a Thing As Pure Malevolence?
  • The Classical Controversy
  • The University Ideal: Past and Present
  • On Teaching English: With Detailed Examples and an Enquiry Into the Definition of Poetry
  • English Composition and Rhetoric: Emotional qualities of style
  • English Composition and Rhetoric: Intellectual elements of style
  • English grammar as bearing upon composition
  • First English Grammar
  • A Higher English Grammar
  • An English grammar
  • English composition and rhetoric: A manual
  • Logic: Induction
  • Logic: Volume 1
  • Deduction
  • Some Points in Ethics
  • Fragments on ethical subjects
  • The Moral Philosophy of Paley
  • The emotions and the will 1859
  • The senses and the intellect
  • Mind And Body: The Theories Of Their Relation
  • Physiological Expression in Psychology
  • Analysis of the phenomena of the human mind: Volume 1
  • How to study character; or, The true basis for the science of mind
  • The emergence of neuroscience in the nineteenth century: Mind and body : the theories of their relation
  • Pleasure and Pain
  • On the study of character: including an estimate of phrenology
  • Mental science: a compendium of psychology, and the history of philosophy, designed as a text-book for high-schools and colleges
  • Moral science: a compendium of ethics
  • Mental and moral science: A compendium of psychology and ethics, London: Longmans, Green & Co., 1868
  • Mental and Moral Science: Psychology and history of philosophy
  • Mental and Moral Science: Theory of ethics and ehtical systems

See also


  1. ^ Kunitz, p. 30
  2. ^ Higher English Grammar at Google Books
  3. ^ An English Grammar at Google Books
  4. ^ Bain, Alexander (1870). Logic, Part First, Deduction. I (1 ed.). London: Longmans, Green, Reader & Dyer. Retrieved 16 June 2014.
  5. ^ Bain, Alexander (1870). Logic, Part Second, Induction. II (1 ed.). London: Longmans, Green, Reader & Dyer. Retrieved 16 June 2014.
  6. ^ Bain, Alexander (1873). Mind & Body. New York: D. Aplleton & Company. Retrieved 16 June 2014.
  7. ^ Bain, Alexander (1879). Education as a Science. New York: D. Aplleton & Company. Retrieved 16 June 2014.
  8. ^ Columbia Encyclopedia
  9. ^ Oxford Dictionary of Philosophy
  10. ^ Bain, Alexander (1870). Autobiography (1 ed.). London: Logmnans, Green & Co. Retrieved 16 June 2014.
  11. ^ Bain, Alexander (1882). John Stuart Mill: a Criticism, with Personal Recollections. London: Longmans, Green & Co. Retrieved 16 June 2014.
  12. ^ Alexander Bain: The Story of the Life of the Famous Aberdeen Professor. New York Times (1857–1922); 30 July 1904, pg. BR514

Further reading

  • Bain, Alexander, English Composition and Rhetoric, 1871 (facsimile ed., 1996, Scholars' Facsimiles & Reprints, ISBN 978-0-8201-1497-2).
  • Hattiangadi, Jagdish N. (1970). "Bain, Alexander". Dictionary of Scientific Biography. 1. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons. pp. 403–404. ISBN 0-684-10114-9.
  • B. R. Hergenhahn, An Introduction to the History of Psychology, Sixth Edition
  • Kunitz, Stanley, and Howard Haycraft. "Bain, Alexander." British Authors of the Nineteenth Century. H. W. Wilson Company, New York, 1936.

External links

Academic offices
Preceded by
Earl of Rosebery
Lord Rector of the University of Aberdeen
Succeeded by
Marquess of Huntly
Preceded by
Regius Chair in Logic at the University of Aberdeen
Succeeded by
William Minto
Alec McCue

Alexander Bain "Alec" McCue (25 November 1927 – 1989) was a Scottish professional footballer who played as a Winger.

Alex Bain (actor)

Alexander Bain (born 25 November 2001) is an English actor from Blackburn, England, he plays Simon Barlow in Coronation Street a role he has played since 2008.

Alex Bain (disambiguation)

Alex Bain was a footballer.

Alex Bain may also refer to:

Alexander Bain (actor), Coronation Street actor

Alexander Bain (disambiguation)

Alexander Bain was a Scottish philosopher.

Alexander Bain may also refer to:

Alexander Bain (inventor) (1810–1877), Scottish inventor and engineer

Alexander Bain (actor), Coronation Street actor

Alexander Bain (inventor)

Alexander Bain (12 October 1810 – 2 January 1877) was a Scottish inventor and engineer who was first to invent and patent the electric clock. He installed the railway telegraph lines between Edinburgh and Glasgow.

Alexander Bain Moncrieff

Alexander Bain Moncrieff CMG (22 May 1845 – 11 April 1928) was an Irish-born engineer, active in Australia.

Moncrieff was the son of Alexander Rutherford Moncrieff, and was born in Dublin, Ireland. His family was of Scottish ancestry. He was educated principally at the Belfast Academy, and at 15 was articled to C. Miller, engineer in Dublin to the Great Southern and Western railway. His seven years apprenticeship included manual work in the blacksmith's shop, and he obtained there an understanding of his fellow workers which was valuable in later years. He was afterwards employed at the Glasgow locomotive works for two years, and subsequently at Dublin again, and in private practice in Hertfordshire, England. In November 1874 he obtained a position as engineering draftsman with the South Australian government, and arrived at Adelaide in February 1875. In 1879 he was made a resident engineer on the South Australian railways, and took charge of the Port Augusta to Oodnadatta line as it was gradually extended.

In 1888 Moncrieff became engineer in chief of South Australia at a salary of £1000 a year, and a little later the departments of waterworks, sewerage, harbours and jetties, were placed under his charge. He was elected M.I.C.E., England, in 1888, and America in 1894. He was chairman of the supply and tender board, and afterwards president of the public service association. He was Chairman of the Municipal Tramways Trust from its inception and appointment of W. G. T. Goodwan as its Chief Engineer in May 1907 then General Manager fifteen months later. He was appointed railway commissioner of South Australia in 1909 but also did important work outside that department. He was responsible for the planning of the outer harbour, the Bundaleer and Barossa water scheme, and the Happy Valley waterworks. He retired from the position of railway commissioner in 1916, and took pride in the fact that during the seven years he was in charge, no serious accident occurred for which any railway employee could be blamed. Moncrieff's motto had always been "safety first". He retired as chairman of the Municipal Tramways Trust on January 1922, after 15 years service. Hee had much to do with the early stages of the Murray Water scheme, though the actual work was not begun in his time. He was also responsible for the south-eastern drainage scheme. He died at Adelaide on 11 April 1928. He married in 1877 Mary Benson, daughter of Edward Sunter, who survived him with a son and a daughter. He was created C.M.G. in 1909.

Moncrieff was a man of outstanding capability, versatility and energy. During his 42 years connexion with the South Australian government he never had more than a few days holiday at a time, and never applied for sick leave. He made many improvements in the service, and filled a variety of offices with distinction. In private life he was interested in gardening, church work and mechanics, and was an omnivorous reader.

Auld Aisle Cemetery

The Auld Aisle Cemetery is located in Kirkintilloch, East Dunbartonshire, Scotland. The cemetery is protected as a category A listed building, and includes graves dating back to the eighteenth century.

Colegio Alexander Bain

Colegio Alexander Bain is a private school system in Mexico. Its junior-senior high school program is Bachillerato Alexander Bain, S.C., located in Tlacopac, San Ángel, Álvaro Obregón, Mexico City. It also operates the Colegio Alexander Bain, a preschool and primary school in Tlacopac; Instituto Alexander Bain (IAB) in Pedregal de San Ángel in Álvaro Obregón, serving preschool and primary school; and the Alexander Bain Irapuato (ABI) school in Irapuato, Guanajuato, serving preschool through junior high school (secundaria).There is also the Escuela Alexander Bain in Álvaro Obregón; it was affiliated with the other Bain schools until circa 2006. It is adjacent to the Colegio Alexander Bain.The system was named after a Scotsman, Alexander Bain.As of 2016 Sergio Rivero Beneitez, the son of the founder of the bachillerato, María Luisa Beneitez Brown, is the director of that school.

Douglas Spalding

Douglas Alexander Spalding (14 July 1841 – 1877) was an English biologist who worked in the home of Viscount Amberley.

He was born in Islington in London in 1841, and began life as a manual labourer. Subsequently, he lived in Scotland, near Aberdeen; the philosopher Alexander Bain persuaded the University of Aberdeen to allow him to attend courses without charge. He studied philosophy and literature, but after a year left for London. He trained as a lawyer, but also contracted tuberculosis. He travelled in Europe in hopes of finding a cure, and in Avignon met John Stuart Mill and through him Viscount Amberley (son of the former British prime minister Lord John Russell, by then 1st Earl Russell). He became tutor to Viscount Amberley's children, including perhaps the very young Bertrand Russell, and also carried on an intermittent affair with Viscountess Amberley. After the Lord Amberley's death in 1876, Spalding returned to the continent and remained there until his death the following year.

Spalding carried out some remarkable experiments on animal behaviour, and discovered the phenomenon now known as imprinting, later rediscovered by Oskar Heinroth, then studied at length and popularised by Konrad Lorenz. He was greatly ahead of his time in his recognition of the importance of the interaction between learning and instinct in determining behaviour, and in his use of the experimental method in studying behaviour. Although his work is little known nowadays, its importance is recognised by historians of psychology; the biologist J. B. S. Haldane reprinted Spalding's essay "On Instinct" in 1954 to clarify the history of the subject.

He was first to identify, in 1873, the process which is now known as the Baldwin effect

Exposition (narrative)

Narrative exposition is the insertion of background information within a story or narrative; for example, information about the setting, characters' backstories, prior plot events, historical context, etc. In a specifically literary context, exposition appears in the form of expository writing embedded within the narrative. Exposition is one of four rhetorical modes (also known as modes of discourse), along with description, argumentation, and narration, as elucidated by Alexander Bain and John Genung. Each of the rhetorical modes is present in a variety of forms, and each has its own purpose and conventions. There are several ways to accomplish exposition.

Frederick Bakewell

Frederick Collier Bakewell (29 September 1800 – 26 September 1869) was an English physicist who improved on the concept of the facsimile machine introduced by Alexander Bain in 1842 and demonstrated a working laboratory version at the 1851 World's Fair in London.


Gambas is the name of an object-oriented dialect of the BASIC programming language, as well as the integrated development environment that accompanies it. Designed to run on Linux and other Unix-like computer operating systems, its name is a recursive acronym for Gambas Almost Means Basic. Gambas is also the word for prawns in the Spanish, French, and Portuguese languages, from which the project's logos are derived.

Grupo Alexander Bain

The Alexander Bain Group, is a school in Mexico. Named after Scottish educator Alexander Bain, the school offers kindergarten, elementary school, junior high and high school.


Houstry is a scattered crofting village, in the east coast of Dunbeath, Caithness, Scottish Highlands and is in the Scottish council area of Highland.A large wind farm has been built next to the village.

Instituto Oxford

Instituto Oxford is a private school in Colonia Torres del Potrero, Álvaro Obregón, Mexico City. The school offers preschool through senior high school (bachillerato).

Suppressed correlative

The fallacy of suppressed correlative is a type of argument that tries to redefine a correlative (one of two mutually exclusive options) so that one alternative encompasses the other, i.e. making one alternative impossible. This has also been known as the fallacy of lost contrast and the fallacy of the suppressed relative.

William Alexander Bain

William Alexander Bain FRSE ScD (20 August 1905 – 24 August 1971) was a Scottish pharmacologist, best known for his early work with antihistamine drugs.

William Bain

Bill Bain or William Bain may refer to:

Bill Bain (consultant) (1937–2018), American management consultant, founder of Bain & Company

Bill Bain (American football) (born 1952), American football player

Bill Bain (director) (1929–1982), Australian-born television director

William Bain (lecturer), academic

William Alexander Bain (1905–1971), Scottish pharmacologist

William J. Bain (1896–1985), Seattle architect, co-founder of NBBJ

Willie Bain (born 1972), Scottish politician

Álvaro Obregón, Mexico City

Álvaro Obregón (Spanish pronunciation: [ˈalvaɾo oβɾeˈɣon]) is one of the 16 municipalities (alcaldías) into which Mexico City is divided. It contains a large portion of the south-west part of Mexico City. It had a 2010 census population of 727,034 inhabitants and lies at an elevation of 2,319 m. above sea level.

It was named after Álvaro Obregón, a leader of the Mexican Revolution and an early-20th-century Mexican president, who was assassinated in this area. Its former name is San Ángel, and the historic San Ángel neighborhood still retains this name, as does the Televisa San Angel motion picture and television studio, which is located in this municipality.

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