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William Whewell

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William Whewell

William Whewell (Born::May 24, 1794Died::March 6, 1866) was an English philosopher and historian of science.


Whewell was born in Lancaster, England, on May 24, 1794. 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 at Trinity College, in Cambridge, England in 1812. 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 Dr. Wordsworth as master. He was professor of mineralogy from 1828 to 1832 and of moral philosophy (then called "moral theology and casuistical divinity") from 1838 to 1855. 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 terms scientist, physicist, anode, cathode, consilience, catastrophism, and uniformitarianism - among others. A scientist is an expert in at least one area of science who uses the scientific method to do research. William Whewell coined the word in 1833 at the request of the poet Coleridge. Before that, scientists were termed "natural philosophers" or "men of science".[1]

William Whewell believed in Christian Universalism, but not necessarily Christianity. Christian Universalism is the belief that everything in heaven and on earth will ulitmately be reconciled back to the Creator through the work of Jesus Christ, his Son. In plain language, no one is going to be endlessly tortured as has been commonly taught. The teaching has been in the church since its inception. The ancient church fathers called it in by its name found in the Greek New Testament, apokatastasis, that is, the "restoration of all things." "When we collect design and purpose from the arrangements of the universe, we do not arrive at our conclusion by a train of deductive reasoning, but by the conviction which such combinations as we perceive, immediately and directly impress upon the mind. ‘Design must have a designer.’ But such a principle can be of no avail to one whom the contemplation or the description of the world does not impress with the perception of design. It is not therefore at the end but at the beginning of our syllogism, not among remote conclusions, but among original principles, that we must place the truth, that such arrangements, manifestations, and proceedings as we behold about us imply a Being endowed with consciousness, design, and will, from whom they proceed." (Whewell 1834, 344) "God … doth accomplish and fulfill his divine will [by ways] not immediate and direct, but by compass; not violating Nature, which is his own law upon the creation. "(Whewell 1834, 358)