Alfred North Whitehead
English Philosopher and Mathematician
Mathematics Ranking 43rd of 46
Portrait of Alfred North Whitehead
Alfred North Whitehead is remembered chiefly for Principia Mathematica (1910–13), on which he collaborated with his pupil Bertrand Russell. The Principia Mathematica created a powerful stimulus for the growth of mathematical logic because it attempted to express all of mathematics in formal logical terms; and Godel’s incompleteness theorem (1931), which, by showing that no such enterprise could ever succeed, has led to investigation of the boundary between what is possible in mathematics and what is not. Whitehead and Russell’s Principia helped to establish research into symbolic logic as a major new branch of mathematics.
Whitehead’s work on geometry led to an interest in the philosophy of science. He proposed an alternative to Einstein’s theories of relativity, and later developed a general and systematic metaphysical view.(1)
(1) Judy Pearsall and Bill Trumble (editors), The Oxford Encyclopedic English Dictionary (New York, 1996), p. 1649.