Russell Bertrand 1872 - 1970 (98)

The world is full of magical things patiently waiting for our wits to grow sharper.



Why I Am Not

a Christian


Bertrand Arthur William Russell (18 May 1872 - 2 February 1970) was a British philosopher, mathematician and pacifist. He came from an aristocratic family, his grandfather (Lord John Russell) had twice been prime minister, while his parents were extremely progressive but died prematurely (in 1874 his mother as well as his sister from diphtheria and in 1876 his father probably from grief). He grew up in a completely puritanical environment, in Richmond, London with his grandmother as his grandfather died in 1878. He was eleven-year-old when his brother Frank introduced him to Euclid's mat ia and China and since then he continued to give lectures at various universities mainly in America (where he lived from 1938 to 1944), made radio broadcasts mainly in The BBC, declared a crusade against nuclear war. He did not stop writing, more than 40 works on mathematics, philosophy, epistemology, metaphysics, education, religion and his personal beliefs.

Bertrand had 4 marriages. In 1896 he married Alice Smith, whom he had fallen in love with since the age of 17, the daughter of a wealthy family of American porridge with whom they had gone to Paris and climbed the Eiffel Tower by the time he had just finished. His grandmother did not want this marriage at all while he hated Alice's mother whom he found cruel, oppressive and religious. The marriage soon fell apart; there was a long period of alienation and separation, during which he had relations with other women, until the final divorce in 1926. A week later he married Dora Black, a writer, feminist and socialist, who was his mistress and 6 months pregnant. He had gone with her to China where he had become seriously ill with pneumonia. They had two children with Dora and in 1927 they founded an experimental school (Beacon Hill school). They divorced in 1936; Bertrand married Patricia Spence, a young Oxford student who had been their babysitter since 1930. His first son and Dora Black were later diagnosed with schizophrenia; Bertrand had to take care of his grandchildren at an advanced age.

In 1945 his book History of Western Philosophy became a bestseller gaining him a lot of money; in 1948 he was among the 24 survivors out of 48, of a plane crash in Norway. In 1950 he won the Nobel Prize in Literature. In 1952 he divorced Spencer, with whom he was unhappy, and at the same time married Edith Fitz, whom he had known since 1925. In 1961, at the age of 89, he was imprisoned for seven days after being arrested in an anti-nuclear demonstration in London.

He died at the age of 98 in Wales near his beloved Edith, with whom he had developed a very tender and affectionate relationship.