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Ludwig Josef Johann Wittgenstein
(April 26, 1889 - 1951) Austria - U.K.

Ludwig Wittgenstein

Philosopher, schoolmaster, and logician


Born in Vienna the younghest of eight children of a wealthy industrialist, he attended college first in Berlin and then in England, returning to Austria when WWI started to serve as an artillery officer. While he was a prisoner of the Italians, he wrote his revolutionary book on philosophy, Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, which was eventually published in German in 1921, and in a combined German-English version the following year.

After the war, Wittgenstein gave away his inherited family fortune and became a elementary school teacher in Austria. Following a stint as a monastery gardener's assistant, he returned to Cambridge's Trinity College in 1929 on a fellowship. He became a British citizen in 1938, and was appointed professor the following year. He spent WWII as a hospital porter and in a laboratory, resuming his professorship after the war.

Some have called him "one of the 5 greatest philosophers of all time". Wittgenstein was a charismatic enigma. He has been something of a cult figure but shunned publicity and even built an isolated hut in Norway to live in complete seclusion. His sexuality was ambiguous but he was certainly gay; how actively so, is still a matter of controversy. Anyway, until recently, biographers tried to ignore his homosexuality.

He wrote his diary in code. Decoded shortly after the Anglo-Austrian's death, it revealed his homosexual fantasies and adventures. These included cruising the notorious "Prater" in Vienna during the 1920s, and frequenting a local cafe that was a chess club during the day and a wild gay club at night.

Wittgenstein had a brief sexual affair with the young British philosopher Frank Ramsey, which ended in 1930 with Ramsey's death. His life seems to have been dominated by an obsession with moral and philosophical perfection, summed up in the subtitle of Ray Monk's excellent biography Wittgenstein: The Duty of Genius.


Photo source: http://www.sbg.ac.at/phs/alws/alws.htm

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