William Whewell
William Whewell was an English
English people
The English are a nation and ethnic group native to England, who speak English. The English identity is of early mediaeval origin, when they were known in Old English as the Anglecynn. England is now a country of the United Kingdom, and the majority of English people in England are British Citizens...

A polymath is a person whose expertise spans a significant number of different subject areas. In less formal terms, a polymath may simply be someone who is very knowledgeable...

, scientist
A scientist in a broad sense is one engaging in a systematic activity to acquire knowledge. In a more restricted sense, a scientist is an individual who uses the scientific method. The person may be an expert in one or more areas of science. This article focuses on the more restricted use of the word...

, Anglican priest
A priest is a person authorized to perform the sacred rites of a religion, especially as a mediatory agent between humans and deities. They also have the authority or power to administer religious rites; in particular, rites of sacrifice to, and propitiation of, a deity or deities...

, philosopher, theologian, and historian of science
History of science
The history of science is the study of the historical development of human understandings of the natural world and the domains of the social sciences....

. He was Master of Trinity College, Cambridge
Trinity College, Cambridge
Trinity College is a constituent college of the University of Cambridge. Trinity has more members than any other college in Cambridge or Oxford, with around 700 undergraduates, 430 graduates, and over 170 Fellows...

Whewell was born in Lancaster
Lancaster, Lancashire
Lancaster is the county town of Lancashire, England. It is situated on the River Lune and has a population of 45,952. Lancaster is a constituent settlement of the wider City of Lancaster, local government district which has a population of 133,914 and encompasses several outlying towns, including...

. His father, a carpenter, wished him to follow his trade, but his success in mathematics
Mathematics is the study of quantity, space, structure, and change. Mathematicians seek out patterns and formulate new conjectures. Mathematicians resolve the truth or falsity of conjectures by mathematical proofs, which are arguments sufficient to convince other mathematicians of their validity...

 at Lancaster and Heversham grammar school
Grammar school
A grammar school is one of several different types of school in the history of education in the United Kingdom and some other English-speaking countries, originally a school teaching classical languages but more recently an academically-oriented secondary school.The original purpose of mediaeval...

s won him an exhibition
Exhibition (scholarship)
-United Kingdom and Ireland:At the universities of Dublin, Oxford and Cambridge, and at Westminster School, Eton College and Winchester College, and various other UK educational establishments, an exhibition is a financial award or grant to an individual student, normally on grounds of merit. The...

 (a type of scholarship) at Trinity College, Cambridge
Trinity College, Cambridge
Trinity College is a constituent college of the University of Cambridge. Trinity has more members than any other college in Cambridge or Oxford, with around 700 undergraduates, 430 graduates, and over 170 Fellows...

 (1812). In 1814 he was awarded the Chancellor's Gold Medal
Chancellor's Gold Medal
The Chancellor's Gold Medal is a prestigious annual award at Cambridge University for poetry, paralleling Oxford University's Newdigate prize. It was first presented by Prince William Frederick, Duke of Gloucester and Edinburgh during his time as Chancellor of the University of Cambridge...

 for poetry. He was Second Wrangler in 1816, President of the Cambridge Union Society
Cambridge Union Society
The Cambridge Union Society, commonly referred to as simply "the Cambridge Union" or "the Union," is a debating society in Cambridge, England and is the largest society at the University of Cambridge. Since its founding in 1815, the Union has developed a worldwide reputation as a noted symbol of...

 in 1817, became fellow and tutor of his college, and, in 1841, succeeded Dr Christopher Wordsworth
Christopher Wordsworth (Trinity)
Christopher Wordsworth , was an English divine and scholar.Born in Cockermouth, Cumberland, he was the youngest brother of the poet William Wordsworth, and was educated at Trinity College, Cambridge, where he became a fellow in 1798.Twelve years later he received the degree of DD...

 as master.

And so no force however great can stretch a cord however fine into an horizontal line which is accurately straight.

Elementary Treatise on Mechanics, The Equilibrium of Forces on a Point (1819)

We cannot observe external things without some degree of Thought; nor can we reflect upon our Thoughts, without being influenced in the course of our reflection by the Things which we have observed.

The Elements of Morality, Book 1, ch. 1. (1845)

Every failure is a step to success. Every detection of what is false directs us towards what is true: every trial exhausts some tempting form of error. Not only so; but scarcely any attempt is entirely a failure; scarcely any theory, the result of steady thought, is altogether false; no tempting form of Error is without some latent charm derived from Truth.

Lectures on the History of Moral Philosophy in England, Lecture 7. (1852)

By speaking of space as an Idea, I intend to imply...that the apprehension of objects as existing in space, and of the relations of position, &c., prevailing among them, is not a consequence of experience, but a result of a peculiar constitution and activity of the mind, which is independent of all experience in its origin, though constantly combined with experience in its exercise.

Part 1, Book 2, ch. 2, art. 1

Our assent to the hypothesis implies that it is held to be true of all particular instances. That these cases belong to past or to future times, that they have or have not already occurred, makes no difference in the applicability of the rule to them. Because the rule prevails, it includes all cases.

Part 2, Book 11, ch. 5, sect. 3, art. 10

The system becomes more coherent as it is further extended. The elements which we require for explaining a new class of facts are already contained in our system. Different members of the theory run together, and we have thus a constant convergence to unity. In false theories, the contrary is the case.

Part 2, Book 11, ch. 5, sect. 3, art. 12

Man is the interpreter of nature, science the right interpretation.

Aphorism 17

In art, truth is a means to an end; in science, it is the only end.

Aphorism 25

The catastrophist constructs theories, the uniformitarian demolishes them.

Aphorism 36