Bertrand Arthur William Russell (1872–1970) was a famous British philosopher, logician, essayist, and social thinker. In 1950, Russell was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature “in recognition of his varied and significant writings in which he champions humanitarian ideals and freedom of thought”. He was also the recipient of the De Morgan Medal (1932), Sylvester Medal (1934), Kalinga Prize (1957), and Jerusalem Prize (1963).
He was born at Trelleck in an aristocratic family. He was a very good student and graduated from Trinity College, Cambridge, with great distinction in Mathematics and Philosophy. He was appointed a Fellow of his college first and thereafter he became Lecturer there in 1910. Till the outbreak of the World War in 1914, Russell spent his time quietly but seriously teaching and writing. He was chiefly concerned with Mathematics and Philosophy in his earlier works such as The Principles of Mathematics, Introduction to Mathematical Philosophy, The Philosophy of Leibnitz, A History of Western Philosophy, and so on.
Russell’s contributions to logic, epistemology and the philosophy of mathematics established him as one of the foremost philosophers of the 20th century. What is more, he is a propagator and guide for the modern generation, cursed by so many ills of present times. Here he is one with two other great names in modern English literature- George Bernard Shaw and H. G. Wells- and has in him the prophetic cult of Dr. Johnson and Thomas Carlyle.
There was a remarkable change in Russell’s mode of living and thinking after the beginning of the First World War. He was an uncompromising pacifist and believer in international brotherhood and firmly opposed to conscription. He was fined, imprisoned, dismissed from his lecturership, and even refused a passport to go to Harvard where he was offered a professorship. But Russell remained dauntless and engaged himself thereafter in writing, with a missionary zeal, on peace and social progress and reforms, and proved to be an author of significance for the modern world.
Russell’s reputation, as a vigorous author, lies in his later works on philosophical and social topics. These works include Mysticism and logic (1918), The Analysis of Mind (1921), The Analysis of Matter (1927), Marriage and Morals (1929), The Conquest of Happiness (1930), The Scientific Outlook (1931), and Human Knowledge, Its Scope and Limits (1948). His social and political views and ideals are expressed particularly in some other powerful works-Principles of Social Reconstruction (1917), Roads to Freedom: Socialism, Anarchism and Syndicalism (1918)
Education and the Social Order (1932), In Praise of Idleness and Other Essays (1935), Power: A New Social Analysis (1938), and Authority and the Individual (1949).
Bertrand Russell is definitely a prolific author, but he is also a very powerful and original master-thinker. His treatises are packed with his serious thoughts, scientific perceptions, and optimistic visions. In his great works, he is found seriously concerned with the existing social evils in various forms. He believes in the eradication of such evils and the ultimate triumph of human goodness. He expresses his unequivocal faith in Utopia as a concrete social reality and does not dismiss this as a mere vision. As a social and political thinker, Russell stands on a high plane, with immense enlightenment for his succeeding authors.
Russell’s works are all rich in high thoughts. But his high thoughts are clothed in a language that has a ready appeal. His prose is extra-ordinarily lucid and effortless, yet quite plain. His style of writing has variety and vividness and is free from dullness and insipidity. He is one of the few masters of English prose who have nicely brought together high thoughts and plain words to inspire many subsequent authors.