Henry Sidgwick was a british philosopher and a politician. These two qualifications are among many others, as he was quiet multidisciplinary. In fact he was also a poet, a sociologist and was interested in psychology, he was one of the founders of the Society for Psychical research , society of which he was the first president and was with his wife, Eleanor Mildred Sidgwick, very active in the realisation of numerous projects for the society.

Henry Sidgwick lived all his life during the reign of Queen Victoria (1837-1901) as he born on May 31, 1838, at Skipton, Yorkshire, and died on August 28, 1900. It is possible to say that he was a " typical " representative of his time, even d'avant garde, he was a modernist as well as a traditionalist, he could understand that the second half of the 19th century was a turning point in the world's evolution and that the one who had the greatest power at this time, the United Kingdom, would, in the future, submit to a Nation that was one of there colonies once before. He also imaginated in " The Elements of Politics " (1891), the creation of a Union of the Western European Countries, Union that would act as an arbitrator between the coutries of Western Europe. It is regarding the 1870's war between the France and Prussia, that he realised the economical danger of such a conflict between the richest countries that would inevitably diminish their dominative power on the world.

Let us come back to the life of Henry Sidgwick.

His father, Reverend William Sidgwick was appointed in 1836 the Head Master of the local Grammar School in Skipton, the Ermysted's Grammar School. When he died in 1841, Henry Sidgwick was only three years old. In the following three years, the family wandered in different places for health cures, as the eldest daughter was quiet ill and died at Tenby in June 1844 at the age of nine; an other brother of Henry Sidgwick had unfortunately died in 1840 at the age of four. Henry Sidgwick grew up with the remaining two brothers and one sister who married, later on, Edward White Benson nephew of Mrs Mary William Sidgwick, Henry Sidgwick's mother.

In 1844, the family sattled a home in Redland on the outskirts of Bristol, close to Durdham Down. From 1844 to 1848, Henry Sidgwick lived at home under a governess, Miss Green, with latin lessons from his mother. The next two years he was sent to a day school in Bristol: the Bishop's College. In 1850 he was considered old enough to leave home and was sent to join his elder brothers at a school in Blackheath under the charge of Reverend H.Dale, known in those days as a scholary translator of Thucydides. Henry Sidgwick was such a brilliant mind that his mother wanted him to get the best education she could afford to give him; therefore he entered Rugby school, in Bristol, in 1852, at the age of 13. When his mother moved, in 1853, to Bristol, Henry Sidgwick cessed to live in the boarding school and became a day school pupill of Rugby. This choice appeared to be the best according to the advices she got from different relations, specially her nephew, Edward White Benson later Archibishop of Caterbury, as he was a Master there (he became later on her son in law) and the opinion she had of the school.

In October 1855, Sidgwick started living in Cambridge University where he lived untill his death in 1900. He was a brilliant student and an active one, he was admitted to the very closed circle of the Cambridge Apostles. He took his degree in 1859 and was, the same year, elected to a Fellowship at the Trinity College Cambridge and appointed Assistant Tutor. In 1869 he resigned this Fellowship, as he was not anymore conviced of his religious belief and could not honnestly submit the 39 articles of the Church of England. As long as this law existed, he was appointed to an other position wich didn't require such an agreement. In 1885, when this law was abrogated, Henry Sidgwick took his Fellowship back. In 1883 he was elected Knightbridge Professor of Moral Philosophy.

In 1876 he married Eleanor Mildred Balfour, the sister of a student, Arthur James Balfour who was Lord Salisbury's nephew.

Henry Sidgwick always worked at the Trinity College of Cambridge where he taught Human Science, Moral Philosophy and Political Science. He was offered to teach at Harvad University and refused as he wasn't interested. He was very found of Cambridge not only because he lived, studied and taught there, but also because he was very active in reforming Trinity College.

One of his reformes is the opening, in 1875, of the Newnham College, offering higher education for women (one of the first University for women). Sidgwick started to give lectures to women in 1870, and for those who could not travel in and out, he risked renting a house in which the female students could live; Anne Jemima Clough was in charge of this house. When the Newnham College opened in 1875, Mrs Clough became its first principal.

When Mrs. Clough died in 1892, Eleanor Sidgwick became the Principal of Newnham College and the Sidgwicks lived there for the rest of their lives. Henry Sidgwick took, during this period the deepest interest in the organisation of the College and its evolution.

In 1882 he founded with Edmund Gurney (1847-1888) English Psychologist and Fellow at Cambridge, Frederic William Henry Myers (1843-1901) English Poet and Essayist, classical lecturer at Trinity College, William Flatcher Barrett (1844-1925) English Physicist and Professor of Physics at Dublin University and Edmund Dawson Rogers (1823-1910) English Journalist and Spiritualist, the Society for Psychical Research one of the first association for learning "more about events and abilities commonly described as "psychic" "paranormal" by supporting research, sharing information and encouraging debate" and "to examine paranormal phenomena in a scientific and unbiased way". He was also a member of the Metaphysical Society.

He also introduced new areas of study, such as Psychology, and work hard for the development of scientific studies in Cambridge University, he also made higher education more accessible to low social classes creating distance learning, evening classes and the Worker University among other reformes in Cambridge University.

He became a member of the Liberal Unionist Party, party which merged with the Tory party (actual conservative in UK). He was a member of the General Board of Studies from its foundation in 1882 till 1899; he was also a member of the Council of the Senate of the Indian Civil Service Board and the Local Examinations and Lectures Syndicate, he was also chairman of the Special Board for Moral Science.

He was forced by illness to resigne his professorship at Cambridge in 1900 year of his passing away.


Biographie français
Biografia in italiano

Henry Sidgwick. The Cambridge History of English and American Literature.
Henry Sidgwick. The Columbia Encyclopedia.
Henry Sidgwick. The Dictionary of Nineteenth-Century British Philosophers, 2002.
Henry Sidgwick. Encyclopædia Britannica (1911).
Henry Sidgwick. Free Online Dictionary of Philosophy
Henry Sidgwick. The Penguin Dictionary of Philosophy.
Henry Sidgwick. Spartacus Educational.
Henry Sidgwick. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.

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