Philosopher. He was one of the most original philosophers of the 20th century. His most noted texts are the “Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus”, which was published during his lifetime, and “Philosophical Investigations”, which was published after his death and more or less entirely refutes the earlier work. The Wittgenstein family was large and wealthy. His father, Karl Wittgenstein, was one of the most successful businessmen in the Austro-Hungarian Empire, leading the iron and steel industry there. He was the youngest of eight children; sadly, three of his brothers, Johannes, Rudolf, Konrad, along with a brother-in-law Jerome Stonborough committed suicide. Although his parents were of Jewish ancestry, his father was protestant and his mother Roman Catholic. He was baptized as Catholic, but did not practice any faith. The tragic of several suicides in his family may have played into his lifelong fascination with formal religion, morals and ethics. He was well-educated first in Berlin studying mechanical engineering and then to England studying aeronautics, experimenting with kites, mathematics, and later philosophy and logic at Cambridge. At this time, he travelled to an isolated part of Norway to write. When his father died in 1913, he returned to Austria, inherited a large sum of money, but he gave it all away. When World War I started in 1914, he was still at his parent’s home and volunteered for the Austrian army. He continued his philosophical work and won several medals for bravery during the war. While on the Russian front, he read and reread Leo Tolstoy’s “Gospel In Brief” and had a religious conversion. Sadly, Paul, a brother who was a noted pianist, had his right arm amputated in World War I. In the early 1920’s, he became an elementary school teacher in rural Austria, where his approach to teaching was strict and unpopular, yet apparently very effective. He spent the two years of 1926 to 1928 meticulously designing and building an austere house in Vienna for his sister Margaret. Recognizing he had to do more research in philosophy, in 1929 he returned to Cambridge and taught at Trinity College. He became professor of philosophy at Cambridge in 1939. During World War II, he worked as a hospital porter at Guy’s Hospital in London and as a research technician in Newcastle. After the war, he returned to university but resigned his professorship in 1947 to concentrate on writing. Several times, he had considered leaving his academic job in favor of training to become a psychiatrist and another time, a Catholic priest. Preferring isolated places as in Norway before World War I, he traveled to rural Ireland to begin to write another book. By 1949 he had written his most important text, which would be published after his death at his request, as “Philosophical Investigations”. Other publications are “Remarks on the Foundations of Mathematics” in 1956, “Philosophical Grammar” in 1969, and “Philosophical Remarks” in 1964. Even in the last days of his life back at Cambridge, he continued writing until he died of prostate cancer. His work from these last years has been published as “On Certainty”. His last words were, "Tell them I've had a wonderful life." He never married. His charismatic personality has become a fascination upon artists, playwrights, poets, novelists, musicians, and even filmmakers; hence his fame has spread far beyond the confines of academic life.
Bio by: Linda Davis
Karl Otto Clemens Wittgenstein