Year 50 – 1910: Principia Mathematica by Alfred North Whitehead and Bertrand Russell

Published: Cambridge University Press, 1910

This is the first of three volumes of a monumental work, the result of years of collaboration by philosophical greats Alfred North Whitehead and Bertrand Russell (Whitehead’s pupil). Principia Mathematica (a.k.a. “PM”) is a foundational text in mathematical logic. PM set forth an argument for logicism, the idea that all mathematics can be reduced to logic. Whitehead and Russell posit that all mathematical truths can be rendered as logical truths and all mathematical proofs can be also be expressed as logical proofs.

It is hard to overstate PM’s influence. It popularized modern mathematical logic and opened up entire fields of research, laying the groundwork for areas of study in disciplines including philosophy, mathematics, linguistics, economics, and computer science.

Although the notation was seen as an improvement over notation developed in the late 19th century by Gottlob Frege, expressing the concepts in a clearer and more compelling way, the notation is now outdated, making the work difficult for a contemporary student of logic to comprehend.

The second and third volumes of Principia Mathematica were published in 1912 and 1913.

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