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Joan L. Richards

Feb 1, 2022

Generations of Reason

A Family's Search for Meaning in Post-Newtonian England

Yale University Press 2021

In February, 1853, Augustus De Morgan, Professor of Mathematics at University College London, drew the last of a series of diagrams illustrating logical syllogisms. A the center roof this one was a face, writes Joan L. Richards, of “a calmly alert being… For [De Morgan] this image of the human and the divine meeting in logical space was…an expression of his aspiration to find…a map of reason that encompassed both the human and divine mind.”

De Morgan was one of a series of fascinating people whose family experience, and intellectual and spiritual lives, are chronicled by Richards in her book Generations of Reason: A Family Search for Meaning in Post-Newtonian England (Yale UP, 2021). She describes an all-encompassing pursuit of reason that takes readers into all of the chief events in English cultural and political history, as well as into some rather more obscure corners.

Joan L. Richards is emeritus professor of history at Brown University, where she served as director of the Program of Sciences, Society, and Technology.

Al Zambone is the host of the excellent podcast "Historically Thinking," where this episode first appeared. 

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