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William Whewell, English polymath

William Whewell, English polymath

C006/4407

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ROYAL INSTITUTION OF GREAT BRITAIN / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY ROYAL INSTITUTION OF GREAT BRITAIN / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY

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William Whewell (1794-1866), English polymath. Whewell was born at Lancaster, the son of a master carpenter. He was a gifetd mathematician and won an exhibition to Trinity College, Cambridge where he spent most of his life. In an age when most scientists were specialists, Whewell was a true polymath able to apply his mind to almost any subject. He is possibly best known for his work on ocean tides, but he published works in mechanics, physics, geology, astronomy and economics, as well as writing poetry, translating Goethe into English and writing on theology. He was gifted at inventing words to describe new discoveries, and brought words such as scientist and physicist to the language for the first time. He was also active in college administration. He died in 1866 after a fall from his horse.

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