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Abbot, Francis Ellingwood (06 November 1836–23 October 1903), Unitarian clergyman and philosopher, was born in Boston, the son of Joseph Hale Abbot and Fanny Ellingwood Larcom. The senior Abbot was a schoolmaster and amateur scientist who reflected the strict moralism of early nineteenth-century Unitarianism, while his wife displayed a strong poetical bent, and Abbot’s life and career were influenced by both. After being educated at the Boston Latin School he entered Harvard College and graduated in 1859. While there he underwent a strong religious conversion, at least partly through the influence of his college friend ...

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Mortimer J. Adler. At his desk at San Francisco's Institute for Philosophical Research, 9 January 1957. Courtesy of AP Images.

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Adler, Mortimer J. (28 December 1902–28 June 2001), philosopher, was born Mortimer Jerome Adler in New York City, the son of Ignatz Adler, a jewelry salesman, and Clarissa Manheim Adler, a former schoolteacher. The family household was modest, and as a child Mortimer Adler developed a love of reading. Though an excellent student, he was bored in the classroom, and in 1918, at age fifteen, he left DeWitt Clinton High School, determined to educate himself through books of his own choosing. He was soon hired as secretary to ...

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Adorno, Theodor (11 September 1903–06 August 1969), social and political theorist, aesthetician, and atonalist musical composer, was born Theodor Ludwig Wiesengrund in Frankfurt, Germany, the son of Oskar Wiesengrund, a wealthy wine merchant, and Maria Calvelli-Adorno, a professional singer of Corsican and Genoese origin. He adopted his mother’s maiden name when his scholarly writing began to appear in 1938, perhaps reflecting his close attachment to her rather than to his remote father. His mother had borne her only child at age thirty-seven and lavished attention and resources on him, particularly with regard to “high” culture. His schooling included piano and composition training at a professional level (one teacher was Alban Berg) and philosophy with Edmund Husserl....

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Albee, Ernest (08 August 1865–26 May 1927), philosopher and educator, was born in Langdon, New Hampshire, the son of Solon Albee and Ellen Lucillia Eames. He graduated from the University of Vermont in 1887 with a bachelor’s degree. He then went to Clark University in Massachusetts, where he studied psychology. In 1892 he transferred to Cornell University, where he earned a doctorate in philosophy in 1894. He had already been made a fellow of the Sage School of Philosophy at Cornell, and in 1892 he was appointed to the faculty. Appointed a full professor in 1907, he remained at Cornell for the rest of his career. He married Emily Humphreys Manly in 1911....

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Andrews, Stephen Pearl (22 March 1812–21 May 1886), eccentric philosopher and reformer, was born in Templeton, Massachusetts, the son of Elisha Andrews, a Baptist clergyman, and Wealthy Ann Lathrop. He attended the village school and, after the family moved to Hinsdale, New Hampshire, in 1816, was taught at home by his father. In 1828 and 1829 he studied in the classical department of Amherst Academy, where he was influenced by Professor ...

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Hannah Arendt. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-90832).

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Arendt, Hannah (14 October 1906–04 December 1975), political theorist and philosopher, was born in Hanover, Germany, the daughter of Paul Arendt, an engineer, and Martha Cohn. She was raised in her parents’ hometown, Königsberg, East Prussia, where the family moved when Paul Arendt became seriously ill with syphilis. He died in 1913. The years during World War I were especially difficult for the family; their safety was often threatened by the nearby battles of the Prussian and Russian armies. After the war, Arendt’s mother became a German Social Democrat and a follower of Rosa Luxemburg, whose writings later had a great influence on Arendt’s thought. In 1920 her mother married Martin Beerwald, who provided the family a renewed measure of security and Arendt with two older stepsisters....

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Ascoli, Max (25 June 1898–01 January 1978), political philosopher, editor, and publisher, was born in Ferrara, Italy, the son of Enrico Ascoli, a coal merchant, and Adriana Finzi. Despite serious problems with his eyesight, which were to plague him much of his life, Ascoli earned his LL.D. at the University of Ferrara in 1920 and his Ph.D. in philosophy at the University of Rome in 1928. His first book, a study of the radical French thinker and writer Georges Sorel, appeared in 1921. An opponent of fascism from its beginnings, Ascoli wrote articles for ...

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Baldwin, James Mark (12 January 1861–08 November 1934), psychologist and philosopher, was born in Columbia, South Carolina, the son of Cyrus Hull Baldwin, a businessman and sometime federal official, and Lydia Eunice Ford. Baldwin entered Princeton as a sophomore in 1881. There, under President ...

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Beardsley, Monroe C. (10 December 1915–18 September 1985), philosopher, was born in Bridgeport, Connecticut, the son of Samuel Beardsley, who was employed by a silverware manufacturer, and Esther Carney Beardsley. He was raised as a Congregationalist and attended local schools. During high school he worked part-time at a local newspaper, the ...

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Bentley, Arthur Fisher (16 October 1870–21 May 1957), sociologist, political scientist, and philosopher, was born in Freeport, Illinois, the son of Angeline Alice Fisher and Charles Frederick Bentley, a banker. The family moved to Omaha and then to Grand Island, Nebraska. Bentley briefly attended both York College, Nebraska, and the University of Denver, Colorado, before returning to Grand Island to work in his father’s bank. In 1890 Bentley entered Johns Hopkins University to study economics and sociology. He returned again to Grand Island and, with his father, collected economic and agricultural data on the community of Harrison, Nebraska. Bentley received an A.B. in 1892. His undergraduate thesis, “The Condition of the Western Farmer as Illustrated by the Economic History of a Nebraska Township,” was published the next year in the ...

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Bergmann, Gustav (04 May 1906–21 April 1987), philosopher and mathematician, was born in Vienna, Austria, the son of Fritz Bergmann, an import/export merchant, and Therese Pollack. Before Bergmann took a Ph.D. in mathematics with a minor in philosophy in 1928 at the University of Vienna, he had already been invited to join the famous Vienna Circle. This group of philosophers, scientists, and mathematicians had adopted what they called logical positivism (or sometimes logical empiricism): advocating a scientific world view, they rejected traditional metaphysics and religion as meaningless and regarded ethical and aesthetic statements as only expressions of attitudes. As one of the youngest members of the Circle along with his Gymnasium classmate, the mathematical logician ...

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Berkeley, George (12 March 1685–14 January 1753), philosopher, was born in Kilkenny, Ireland, the son of William Berkeley, a gentleman farmer, and, probably, Elisabeth Southerne. He entered Trinity College, Dublin, in 1700, organizing a society to study the work of Nicolas de Malebranche, René Descartes, Gottfried Wilhelm von Leibnitz, Thomas Hobbes, Sir Isaac Newton, and John Locke in 1705. He received his B.A. in 1704, his M.A. and a fellowship in 1707. His philosophy responds to Locke and Newton and the mathematical and scientific skepticism of their followers....

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Berkson, Isaac Baer (23 December 1881–10 March 1975), educational philosopher, was born Isadore Berkson in Brooklyn, New York, the son of Henry Berkson, a merchant, and Jennie Berkman. He attended the City College of New York (1908–1912), where he received a B.A. in liberal arts, Greek, and Latin; and Columbia University and Teachers College (1912–1919), where he earned a master of arts in history of philosophy and sociology of education and a Ph.D. in philosophy and education. In 1919 he married Libbie Suchoff; the couple had three children....

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Bertocci, Peter Anthony (1910–13 October 1989), philosopher, was born in Gaeta, Italy, the son of Gaetano Bertocci and Annunziata Guglietta. His father had earlier settled in an immigrant quarter of Somerville, Massachusetts, and Peter was brought to Massachusetts by his mother when he was a few months old. The Bertocci family had its share of both tragedy and hard work. Of their thirteen children, only six survived childbirth. Both parents were relentless workers, rigorously frugal, and willing to undergo any sacrifice to make America the land of promise for their children. Peter himself was employed from the age of seven. He sold newspapers at the meat-packing plant where his father worked; tended a shoe-maker’s shop; collected and repaired storage barrels; cleaned a neighbor’s barn; and procured kindling, cooking wood, and coal....

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Bjerregaard, Carl Henrik Andreas (24 May 1845–28 January 1922), librarian and philosopher, was born in Fredericia, Denmark, the son of Janus Bagge Friis, an educator, and Louise Nielsen. Bjerregaard attended the local Latin school, Fredericia College, in which his father was principal, but he did not graduate. He went on to study at, and apparently graduated from, the University of Copenhagen in 1863. After leaving Copenhagen, he volunteered as a Danish spy in the Danish–Schleswig-Holstein war. From 1865 to 1866 he went to St. Petersburg and other parts of Europe as a teacher in the household of a Danish minister to Russia. In 1866 he entered the Danish military as a candidate for reserve service and completed training at the Military Academy of Denmark. He served in the reserve army for seven years, achieving the rank of second lieutenant. In 1868 he married Mathilde Georgina Thomsen. They had seven children. From 1869 to 1870 he was professor of botany and curator of the natural history museum at Fredericia College. In the summer of 1873 Bjerregaard left the military and Denmark without permission. His hasty departure occurred the night before a police investigation into an allegation that he had violated the criminal code. Bjerregaard later offered two distinct defenses of his unauthorized exit. First, he claimed that he feared an unwanted military appointment to garrison duty in the Danish West Indies. Second, he proposed that his criminal offense consisted of having been witnessed with socialists while in uniform....

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James Wilson-Quayle

Black, Max (24 February 1909–27 August 1988), philosopher, was born in Baku, Russia, the son of Lionel Black, a small trader and businessman, and Sophia Davinska. Because of the climate of anti-Semitism, Black’s family left Russia when he was a young child, living a short while in Paris and finally settling in London in 1912. At an early age Black displayed a talent for mathematics, chess, and the violin and, at one time, contemplated a career as a pianist. It was his interest in mathematics, however, that led him to earn his B.A. in the subject at Queens College, Cambridge. While there, he became attracted to the analytic school of philosophy and, in particular, to the thought of Ludwig Wittgenstein, Bertrand Russell, G. E. Moore and F. P. Ramsey, all of whom were teaching at Cambridge while he was a student there and who were to have an influence on many of his subsequent ideas....

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Blanshard, Brand (27 August 1892–19 November 1987), rationalist philosopher and educator, was born Percy Brand Blanshard with a fraternal twin, Paul, in Fredericksburg, Ohio, the son of Francis George Blanshard, a Congregationalist minister, and Emily Coulter. In a tragic accident Emily Blanshard was burned to death when the twins were infants. Brand’s father served for a few years as a minister of a Congregationalist church. Suffering from consumption, the young minister, on advice from his physician, went to live in a dry western state. Unfortunately, the move was to no avail and he died a short time later....

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Blau, Joseph Leon (06 May 1909–28 December 1986), philosopher and educator, was born in Brooklyn, New York, the son of Joel Leon Blau, a rabbi, and Rachel Woolf. He received his B.A. (1931), M.A. (1933), and Ph.D. degrees (1944) from Columbia University. His dissertation was titled “The Christian Interpretation of the Cabala in the Renaissance.” It substantiated the Jewish influence on Christianity during this period. Among those who exerted a special influence on Blau were ...