William Whewell

William Whewell FRS FGS (/ˈhjuːəl/ HEW-əl; 24 May 1794 – 6 March 1866) was an English polymath, scientist, Anglican priest, philosopher, theologian, and historian of science. He was Master of Trinity College, Cambridge. In his time as a student there, he achieved distinction in both poetry and mathematics.

What is most often remarked about Whewell is the breadth of his endeavours. In a time of increasing specialisation, Whewell appears as a vestige of an earlier era when natural philosophers dabbled in a bit of everything. He researched ocean tides (for which he won the Royal Medal), published work in the disciplines of mechanics, physics, geology, astronomy, and economics, while also finding the time to compose poetry, author a Bridgewater Treatise, translate the works of Goethe, and write sermons and theological tracts. In mathematics, Whewell introduced what is now called the Whewell equation, an equation defining the shape of a curve without reference to an arbitrarily chosen coordinate system.

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. Whewell contributed the terms scientist, physicist, linguistics, consilience, catastrophism, uniformitarianism, and astigmatism[1] amongst others; Whewell suggested the terms electrode, ion, dielectric, anode, and cathode to Michael Faraday.[2]

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

William Whewell

Portrait of W. Whewell; stipple engraving Wellcome L0014766
Born24 May 1794
Died6 March 1866 (aged 71)
Alma materTrinity College, Cambridge
Known forCoining the words scientist and physicist
AwardsSmith's Prize (1816)
Royal Medal (1837)
Scientific career
FieldsPolymath, philosopher, theologian
InstitutionsTrinity College, Cambridge
InfluencesJohn Gough
John Hudson
InfluencedAugustus De Morgan
Isaac Todhunter

Life and career

Whewell was born in Lancaster. His father, a carpenter, wished him to follow his trade, but his success in mathematics at Lancaster and Heversham grammar schools won him an exhibition (a type of scholarship) at Trinity College, Cambridge (1812). In 1814 he was awarded the Chancellor's Gold Medal for poetry.[3] He was Second Wrangler in 1816, President of the Cambridge Union Society in 1817, became fellow and tutor of his college, and, in 1841, succeeded Christopher Wordsworth as master. He was professor of mineralogy from 1828 to 1832 and Knightbridge Professor of Philosophy (then called "moral theology and casuistical divinity") from 1838 to 1855.[4]

Whewell married, firstly, in 1841, Cordelia Marshall, daughter of John Marshall; she died in 1855. In 1858 he married again, to Everina Frances (née Ellis), widow of Sir Gilbert Affleck, 5th Baronet who had died in 1865.[5] He himself died in Cambridge in 1866 as a result of a fall from his horse.;[6][7] he is buried in the chapel of Trinity College, Cambridge while his wives are buried together in the Mill Road Cemetery, Cambridge. A window dedicated to Lady Affleck, his second wife, was installed in her memory in the chancel of All Saints' Church, Cambridge and made by Morris & Co.


History and development of science

William Whewell
William Whewell, c. 1860s

His best-known works are two voluminous books which attempt to 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 history. In the latter, he attempted to follow Francis Bacon's plan for 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.

Whewell's three steps of induction

Whewell analysed inductive reasoning 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 Philosophy of the Inductive Sciences Whewell was the first to use the term "consilience" to discuss the unification of knowledge between the different branches of learning.

Opponent of English empiricism

Here, as in his ethical doctrine, Whewell was moved by opposition to contemporary English empiricism. Following Immanuel Kant, he asserted against John Stuart Mill the a priori nature of necessary truth, and by his rules for the construction of conceptions he dispensed with the inductive methods of Mill.

Whewell's neologisms

As stated, 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 itself in 1833, and it was first published in Whewell's anonymous 1834 review of Mary Somerville's On the Connexion of the Physical Sciences published in the Quarterly Review.[8] (They had previously been known as "natural philosophers" or "men of science").

Work in college administration

Whewell was prominent not only in scientific research and philosophy, but also in university and college administration. His first work, An Elementary Treatise on Mechanics (1819), cooperated with those of George Peacock and John Herschel 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, and in a controversy with Connop Thirlwall (1834), opposed the admission of Dissenters; 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.

He was elected Master of Trinity College, Cambridge in 1841, and retained that position until his death in 1866.

The Whewell Professorship of International Law and the Whewell Scholarships were established through the provisions of his will.[9][10]

Whewell's interests in architecture

Aside from Science, Whewell was also interested in the history of architecture throughout his life. He is best known for his writings on Gothic 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 and Robert Willis.

He paid from his own resources for the construction of two new courts of rooms at Trinity College, Cambridge, built in a Gothic style. The two courts were completed in 1860 and (posthumously) in 1868, and are now collectively named Whewell's Court (in the singular).

Whewell's works in philosophy and morals

William Whewell portrait
Portrait by James Lonsdale

Between 1835 and 1861 Whewell produced various works on the philosophy of morals and politics, 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—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, truth, purity and order).

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 of life on other planets, and also the Platonic 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, De jure belli ac pacis (1853), and the edition of the Mathematical Works of Isaac Barrow (1860).[11][12]

Whewell was one of the Cambridge dons whom Charles Darwin met during his education there, and when Darwin returned from the Beagle voyage he was directly influenced by Whewell, who persuaded Darwin to become secretary of the Geological Society of London. The title pages of On the Origin of Species open with a quotation from Whewell's Bridgewater Treatise about science founded on a natural theology of a creator establishing laws:[13]

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.

Works by Whewell

Honors and recognitions

In fiction

In the 1857 novel Barchester Towers Charlotte Stanhope uses the topic of the theological arguments, concerning the possibility of intelligent life on other planets, between Whewell and David Brewster in an attempt to start up conversation between her impecunious brother and the wealthy young widow Eleanor Bold.[17]

See also


  1. ^ Leffler CT, Schwartz SG, Stackhouse R, Davenport B, Spetzler K (2013). "Evolution and impact of eye and vision terms in written English". JAMA Ophthalmology. 131 (12): 1625–31. doi:10.1001/jamaophthalmol.2013.917. PMID 24337558. Archived from the original on 2014-12-23.
  2. ^ Faraday, Michael (1834). "On Electrical Decomposition". Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society. Archived from the original on 2010-01-17. Retrieved 2010-01-17. In this article Faraday coins the words electrode, anode, cathode, anion, cation, electrolyte, and electrolyze.
  3. ^ University of Cambridge (1859), A Complete Collection of the English Poems which Have Obtained the Chancellor's Gold Medal in the University of Cambridge (PDF), Cambridge: W. Metcalfe, retrieved 1 October 2008
  4. ^ "Whewell, William (WHWL811W)". A Cambridge Alumni Database. University of Cambridge.
  5. ^ Yeo, Richard. "Whewell, William". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/29200. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  6. ^ GRO Register of Deaths: MAR 1866 3b 353 CAMBRIDGE – William Whewell, aged 71
  7. ^ Full bibliographical details are given by Isaac Todhunter, William Whewell: An Account of his Writings, with selection from his literary and scientific correspondence, London: Macmillan, 1876, (volume 1, volume 2). See also Mrs Stair Douglas The Life and Selections from the Correspondence of William Whewell, D.D., London: C. Kegan Paul & Co., 1881, at Internet Archive
  8. ^ Ross, Sydney (1962). "Scientist: The story of a word" (PDF). Annals of Science. 18 (2): 65–85. doi:10.1080/00033796200202722. Retrieved 2011-03-08. To be exact, the person coined the term scientist was referred to in Whewell 1834 only as "some ingenious gentleman." Ross added a comment that this "some ingenious gentleman" was Whewell himself, without giving the reason for the identification. Ross 1962, p.72.
  9. ^ Statutes and Ordinances of the University of Cambridge. Cambridge University Press. 2009. pp. 49–50. ISBN 9780521137454.
  10. ^ Dr. William Whewell laid in his will: "an earnest an express injunction on the occupant of this chair that he should make it his aim in all parts of his treatment of the subject, to lay down such rules and suggest such measures as might tend to diminish the evils of war and finally to extinguish war among nations. See Maine, Henry Sumner (1888). Whewell Lectures, International Law, A Series of Lectures Delivered before the University of Cambridge, 1887 (1 ed.). London: John Murray. p. 1. Retrieved 8 September 2015. via Internet Archive
  11. ^ Grotius on the Right of War and Peace, An Abridged Translation by William Whewell, Cambridge: At the University Press, 1853 at Internet Archive
  12. ^ The Mathematical Works of Isaac Barrow, D.D., edited for Triniity College by W. Whewell, Cambridge: At University Press, 1860, at Internet Archive
  13. ^ Darwin, Charles (1859), On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life, London: John Murray (The Origin of Species page ii.) Retrieved on 5 January 2007
  14. ^ "Review of On the Principles of English University Education by William Whewell". The Quarterly Review. 59: 439–483. October 1837.
  15. ^ "Book of Members, 1780–2010: Chapter W" (PDF). American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Retrieved 15 September 2016.
  16. ^ http://www.sedgwickmuseum.org/index.php?page=whewell-mineral-gallery
  17. ^ Bowen, John, ed. (2014). "Explanatory notes". Barchester Towers. Oxford University Press. p. 452. ISBN 9780199665860.

Further reading

  • Heilbron, J. L. (2002), "Coming to terms", Nature (published 7 February 2002), 415 (6872), pp. 585–585, doi:10.1038/415585a, PMID 11832919
  • Losee, J. (1983), "Whewell and Mill on the relation between philosophy of science and history of science", Studies in history and philosophy of science (published Jun 1983), 14 (2), pp. 113–126, doi:10.1016/0039-3681(83)90016-X, PMID 11615935
  • Fisch, M. (1991), William Whewell Philosopher of Science, Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Fisch, M. and Schaffer S. J. (eds.) (1991), William Whewell: A Composite Portrait, Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Henderson, James P. (1996). Early Mathematical Economics: William Whewell and the British Case. Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield. ISBN 0-8476-8201-3.
  • Metcalfe, J. F. (1991), "Whewell's developmental psychologism: a Victorian account of scientific progress", Studies in history and philosophy of science (published Mar 1991), 22 (1), pp. 117–139, doi:10.1016/0039-3681(91)90017-M, PMID 11622706
  • Morrison, M. (1997), "Whewell on the ultimate problem of philosophy", Studies in history and philosophy of science Part A, 28 (3), pp. 417–437, doi:10.1016/S0039-3681(96)00028-3
  • Ruse, M. (1975), "Darwin's debt to philosophy: an examination of the influence of the philosophical ideas of John F. W. Herschel and William Whewell on the development of Charles Darwin's theory of evolution", Studies in history and philosophy of science (published Jun 1975), 6 (2), pp. 159–181, doi:10.1016/0039-3681(75)90019-9, PMID 11615591
  • Sandoz, R. (2016), "Whewell on the classification of the sciences" (PDF), Studies in history and philosophy of science Part A, 60, pp. 48–54, doi:10.1016/j.shpsa.2016.10.001
  • Schipper, F. (1988), "William Whewell's conception of scientific revolutions", Studies in history and philosophy of science Part A, 19 (1), pp. 43–53, doi:10.1016/0039-3681(88)90019-2
  • Snyder, Laura J. (2006), Reforming Philosophy: A Victorian Debate on Science and Society, Chicago: The University of Chicago Press. Includes an extensive bibliography.
  • Snyder, Laura J. (2011), The Philosophical Breakfast Club, New York: Broadway Books.
  • Whewell, W., Astronomy and General Physics Considered with Reference to Natural Theology; Bridgewater Treatises, W. Pickering, 1833 (reissued by Cambridge University Press, 2009; ISBN 978-1-108-00012-3)
  • Whewell, W., Of the Plurality of Worlds. An Essay; J. W. Parker and son, 1853 (reissued by Cambridge University Press, 2009; ISBN 978-1-108-00018-5)
  • Yeo, Richard. "Whewell, William (1794–1866)". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/29200. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  • Yeo, R. (1991), Defining Science: William Whewell, Natural Knowledge and Public Debate in Early Victorian Britain, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Zamecki, Stefan, Komentarze do naukoznawczych poglądów Williama Whewella (1794–1866): studium historyczno-metodologiczne [Commentaries to the Logological Views of William Whewell (1794–1866): A Historical-Methodological Study], Warsaw, Wydawnictwa IHN PAN, 2012, ISBN 978-83-86062-09-6, English-language summary: pp. 741–43.

External links

Academic offices
Preceded by
Christopher Wordsworth
Master of Trinity College, Cambridge
Succeeded by
William Hepworth Thompson

In science and history, consilience (also convergence of evidence or concordance of evidence) refers to the principle that evidence from independent, unrelated sources can "converge" on strong conclusions. That is, when multiple sources of evidence are in agreement, the conclusion can be very strong even when none of the individual sources of evidence is significantly so on its own. Most established scientific knowledge is supported by a convergence of evidence: if not, the evidence is comparatively weak, and there will not likely be a strong scientific consensus.

The principle is based on the unity of knowledge; measuring the same result by several different methods should lead to the same answer. For example, it should not matter whether one measures the distance between the Giza pyramid complex by laser rangefinding, by satellite imaging, or with a meter stick – in all three cases, the answer should be approximately the same. For the same reason, different dating methods in geochronology should concur, a result in chemistry should not contradict a result in geology, etc.

The word consilience was originally coined as the phrase "consilience of inductions" by William Whewell ("consilience" refers to a "jumping together" of knowledge). The word comes from Latin com- "together" and -siliens "jumping" (as in resilience).


Diamagnetic materials are repelled by a magnetic field; an applied magnetic field creates an induced magnetic field in them in the opposite direction, causing a repulsive force. In contrast, paramagnetic and ferromagnetic materials are attracted by a magnetic field. Diamagnetism is a quantum mechanical effect that occurs in all materials; when it is the only contribution to the magnetism, the material is called diamagnetic. In paramagnetic and ferromagnetic substances the weak diamagnetic force is overcome by the attractive force of magnetic dipoles in the material. The magnetic permeability of diamagnetic materials is less than μ0, the permeability of vacuum. In most materials diamagnetism is a weak effect which can only be detected by sensitive laboratory instruments, but a superconductor acts as a strong diamagnet because it repels a magnetic field entirely from its interior.

Diamagnetism was first discovered when Sebald Justinus Brugmans observed in 1778 that bismuth and antimony were repelled by magnetic fields. In 1845, Michael Faraday demonstrated that it was a property of matter and concluded that every material responded (in either a diamagnetic or paramagnetic way) to an applied magnetic field. On a suggestion by William Whewell, Faraday first referred to the phenomenon as diamagnetic (the prefix dia- meaning through or across), then later changed it to diamagnetism.


An electrode is an electrical conductor used to make contact with a nonmetallic part of a circuit (e.g. a semiconductor, an electrolyte, a vacuum or air). The word was coined by William Whewell at the request of the scientist Michael Faraday from two Greek words: elektron, meaning amber (from which the word electricity is derived), and hodos, a way.The electrophore, invented by Johan Wilcke, was an early version of an electrode used to study static electricity.

English historical school of economics

The English historical school of economics, although not nearly as famous as its German counterpart, sought a return of inductive methods in economics, following the triumph of the deductive approach of David Ricardo in the early 19th century. The school considered itself the intellectual heirs of past figures who had emphasized empiricism and induction, such as Francis Bacon and Adam Smith. Included in this school are William Whewell, Richard Jones, Thomas Edward Cliffe Leslie, Walter Bagehot, Thorold Rogers, Arnold Toynbee, William Cunningham, and William Ashley.

Faculty of Philosophy, University of Cambridge

The University of Cambridge was the birthplace of the 'Analytical' School of Philosophy in the early 20th century. The department is located in the Raised Faculty Building on the Sidgwick Site and is part of the Cambridge School of Arts and Humanities. The Faculty achieved the best possible results from The Times 2004 and the QAA Subject Review 2001 (24/24). It is ranked first in the UK by the Guardian.

Horror Victorianorum

Horror Victorianorum (terror of the Victorian), coined by the philosopher David Stove, is an extreme distaste or condemnation of Victorian culture, art and design. The term was used in Stove's book The Plato Cult as part of his argument against Karl Popper and other philosophers whom he characterised as "modernists". For Stove, Popper was influenced by the pervasive anti-Victorian mentality of the era, epitomised by Evelyn Waugh's book A Handful of Dust, in which the absurdity of Victorian values is expressed by a parody of "Victorian" conceptions of the civilizing mission of imperialism, when the hero is finally trapped in the Amazonian jungle, forced eternally to read the works of Dickens to a tribal chief.

For Stove, the ascription of absurdity to Victorian culture was essentially a matter of taste, but one so powerful and irrational that it possessed the intensity of religious faith. As a result, it produced a revulsion – rather than a reasoned scepticism – to writers such as the Victorian philosopher of science William Whewell.

Following Stove's usage, the term was taken up by the design historian Shelagh Wilson to refer to modernist distaste for Victorian architecture and design. Wilson argued that "Palissyite" design, influenced by the methods of Bernard Palissy, had been ridiculed and misunderstood by proponents of "Puginite" design, following the proto-modernist principles of Augustus Pugin. Wilson's argument formed part of a reaffirmation of the aesthetic principles of the grotesque.

The argument that distaste for Victorian cultural values ('Anti-victorianism') is irrational has been adopted by other writers,[1]either following Stove's politically conservative attack on liberal thought, or Wilson's critique of modernism.

Hypotheses non fingo

Hypotheses non fingo (Latin for "I feign no hypotheses", "I frame no hypotheses", or "I contrive no hypotheses") is a famous phrase used by Isaac Newton in an essay, "General Scholium", which was appended to the second (1713) edition of the Principia.

Here is a modern translation (published 1999) of the passage containing this famous remark:

I have not as yet been able to discover the reason for these properties of gravity from phenomena, and I do not feign hypotheses. For whatever is not deduced from the phenomena must be called a hypothesis; and hypotheses, whether metaphysical or physical, or based on occult qualities, or mechanical, have no place in experimental philosophy. In this philosophy particular propositions are inferred from the phenomena, and afterwards rendered general by induction.

The nineteenth century philosopher of science, William Whewell, qualified this statement, as, he said, "it was by such a use of hypotheses, that both Newton himself and Kepler, on whose discoveries those of Newton were based, made their discoveries". Whewell stated:What is requisite is, that the hypotheses should be close to the facts, and not connected with them by other arbitrary and untried facts; and that the philosopher should be ready to resign it as soon as the facts refuse to confirm it.

John Gough (natural philosopher)

John Gough (; 17 January 1757 – 28 July 1825) was a blind English natural and experimental philosopher who is known for his own investigations as well as the influence he had on both John Dalton and William Whewell.

John Whewell

John William Whewell (8 May 1887 – 2 July 1948) was an English cricketer active from 1921 to 1927 who played for Lancashire. He was born in Rishton and died in Blackpool. He appeared in 14 first-class matches as a righthanded batsman and wicketkeeper. He scored 54 runs with a highest score of 25 and held 14 catches with seven stumpings.

Knightbridge Professor of Philosophy

The Knightbridge Professorship of Philosophy is the senior professorship in philosophy at the University of Cambridge. There have been 22 Knightbridge professors, the incumbent being Rae Langton.

One of the oldest professorships in Cambridge, the chair was founded in 1683 by John Knightbridge (1619/20–1677), a clergyman and Fellow of Peterhouse. Knightbridge gave money for its foundation on his death in 1677. The terms of his will required the Professor to be a Doctor or Bachelor of Divinity; to be aged fifty or older; and to give five lectures in Latin each term, providing a written copy of these lectures to the Vice Chancellor. If the Professor did not give the required five lectures without a good reason, then their maintenance (£50 per annum) could be withdrawn.The Will also laid out that the Professor would be chosen by election by the Regius and the Lady Margaret's Professors of Divinity, the Master of Peterhouse and the Vice-Chancellor of Cambridge, with the latter having the casting vote. This has given rise to a story that in 1813 Francis Barnes was able to secure his own election to the Professorship, because he was Master of Peterhouse as well as Vice-Chancellor. However, the story is almost certainly apocryphal since Barnes was not Vice-Chancellor at the time.

The trustees of Knightbridge's Will were unable to find a suitable person to be elected to the Professorship according to these terms. They therefore appealed to the Court of Chancery to relax and modify the original restrictions. A decree was obtained in 18 July 1682, allowing the Professor to be aged forty or older, and to deliver four lectures in each term rather than five. In 1683 the first election to the chair took place, and Thomas Smoult of St John's College was appointed, more than five years after Knightbridge's death. Smoult further endowed the Professorship with a bequest upon his death in 1707, leaving £300 to purchase land so that the rents could be used to maintain the Knightbridge Professor. This increased the stipend to around £70 per annum. The requirements for the Professor regarding their age and the number of lectures that they were required to deliver, were repealed in 1861. In 1882, the requirement that the post holder should be a Doctor or Bachelor of Divinity was also repealed.It is unlikely that any of the holders of the Knightbridge Professorship gave the required lectures until the nineteenth century. William Whewell who was appointed to the Professorship in 1838, gave evidence to the University Commission stating that he was not aware that any predecessor to the post had lectured.Originally entitled the "Professorship of Moral Theology or Casuisticall Divinity", with the holder often known as simply the "Professor of Casuistry", it was subsequently designated the Professorship of Moral Theology, Casuistical Divinity, and Moral Philosophy. In 1896 it became the Professorship of Moral Philosophy. The scope of the professorship was officially broadened from merely moral to general philosophy under its present name in 1965.

List of Fellows of the Royal Society elected in 1820

This page lists Fellows of the Royal Society elected in 1820.

List of philosophers of science

This is a chronological list of philosophers of science. For an alphabetical name-list, see Category:Philosophers of science.

On the Connexion of the Physical Sciences

On the Connexion of the Physical Sciences is one of the biggest selling science books in the 19th century. It was written by Mary Somerville in 1834.The book went through many editions and was translated into several European languages. In a review of the book in March 1834, William Whewell coined the word "scientist".


A scientist is someone who conducts scientific research to advance knowledge in an area of interest.In classical antiquity, there was no real ancient analog of a modern scientist. Instead, philosophers engaged in the philosophical study of nature called natural philosophy, a precursor of natural science. It was not until the 19th century that the term scientist came into regular use after it was coined by the theologian, philosopher, and historian of science William Whewell in 1833. The term 'scientist' was first coined by him for Mary Somerville, partly because the term "man of science", more custom at that time, was clearly inappropriate here.In modern times, many scientists have advanced degrees in an area of science and pursue careers in various sectors of the economy such as academia, industry, government, and nonprofit environments.

The Club (dining club)

The Club or Literary Club is a London dining club founded in February 1764 by the artist Joshua Reynolds and essayist Samuel Johnson, with Edmund Burke, the Irish philosopher-politician.


Uniformitarianism, also known as the Doctrine of Uniformity, refers to the invariance in the principles underpinning science, such as the constancy of causality, or causation, throughout time, but it has also been used to describe invariance of physical laws through time and space. Though an unprovable postulate that cannot be verified using the scientific method, uniformitarianism has been a key first principle of virtually all fields of science.In geology, uniformitarianism has included the gradualistic concept that "the present is the key to the past" (that events occur at the same rate now as they have always done); many geologists now, however, no longer hold to a strict theory of gradualism. Coined by William Whewell, the word was proposed in contrast to catastrophism by British naturalists in the late 18th century, starting with the work of the geologist James Hutton in his many books including Theory of the Earth. Hutton's work was later refined by scientist John Playfair and popularised by geologist Charles Lyell's Principles of Geology in 1830. Today, Earth's history is considered to have been a slow, gradual process, punctuated by occasional natural catastrophic events.

Whewell Professor of International Law

The Whewell Professorship of International Law is a professorship in the University of Cambridge.

The Professorship was established in 1868 by the will of the 19th-century scientist and moral philosopher, William Whewell, with a view to devising "such measures as may tend to diminish the causes of war and finally to extinguish war between nations".

Whewell equation

The Whewell equation of a plane curve is an equation that relates the tangential angle () with arclength (), where the tangential angle is the 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. These quantities do not depend on the coordinate system used except for the choice of the direction of the x-axis, so this is an intrinsic equation of the curve, or, less precisely, the intrinsic equation. If a curve is obtained from another by translation then their Whewell equations will be the same.

When the relation is a function, so that tangential angle is given as a function of arclength, certain properties become easy to manipulate. In particular, the derivative of the tangential angle with respect to arclength is equal to the curvature. Thus, taking the derivative of the Whewell equation yields a Cesàro equation for the same curve.

The concept is named after William Whewell, who introduced it in 1849, in a paper in the Cambridge Philosophical Transactions. In his conception, the angle used is the deviation from the direction of the curve at some fixed starting point, and this convention is sometimes used by other authors as well. This is equivalent to the definition given here by the addition of a constant to the angle or by rotating the curve.


Whewellite is a mineral, hydrated calcium oxalate, formula Ca C2O4·H2O. Because of its organic content it is thought to have an indirect biological origin; this hypothesis is supported by its presence in coal and sedimentary nodules. However, it has also been found in hydrothermal deposits where a biological source appears improbable. For this reason, it may be classed as a true mineral.

Whewellite, or at least crystalline calcium oxalate, does also arise from biological sources. Small crystals or flakes of it are sometimes found on the surfaces of some cacti, and kidney stones frequently have the same composition.

Whewellite was named after William Whewell (1794–1866), an English polymath, naturalist and scientist, professor of moral philosophy at Cambridge and inventor of the system of crystallographic indexing.

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