Charles Peirce

September 10, 1839 - April 20, 1914

Scientific Discipline: Mathematics
Membership Type:
Member (elected 1877)

Charles Peirce, a noted logician, mathematician, and philosopher, wrote an array of papers on topics in the physical and social sciences. His greatest contribution came in 1877 in a series of writings called Illustrations of the Logic of Science, where he outlined his ideas for pragmatism and semiotics in two articles entitled The Fixation of Belief and How to Make Our Ideas Clear. Peirce is often called the founder of Pragmatism, the idea that theory should be born of practice and then applied back so that actions reflect a rational practice. In this way the processes and perceptions that science provides the modern world should be reflected in philosophy and other similar disciplines. Peirce also provided insight into the way the mind works through semiotics, or the study of signs and sign processes. He argued that all thought manifests in symbols and that thought processes are merely forming relationships within the mind.

Peirce graduated from Harvard in 1859 and received a BS degree in chemistry in 1863. He was employed at the U. S. Coast and Geodetic Survey from 1859 to 1891 and spent most of his time working in geodesy and gravimetry. He became a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1867. Peirce was then offered a position as lecturer at John Hopkins University, where he taught logic from 1879 to 1884.


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