David Pinsent

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David Pinsent
15. David Pinsent.jpg
David Hume Pinsent

(1891-05-24)24 May 1891
Died8 May 1918(1918-05-08) (aged 26)
Cause of deathPlane Crash
EducationTrinity College, Cambridge (First-class Honours, Mathematics)
OccupationTest Pilot at Royal Aircraft Establishment, Farnborough
FamilyDavid Hume

David Hume Pinsent (/ˈpɪnˌsɛnt/; 24 May 1891 – 8 May 1918)[1] was a friend, collaborator and platonic lover of the Austrian philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein. Wittgenstein's Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus (1922) is dedicated to Pinsent's memory.[2][3]

Early life[edit]

Pinsent sitting with signature below

Pinsent, a descendant of the philosopher David Hume, was born in Edgbaston, Birmingham. He gained a first-class honours degree in mathematics at Cambridge University, where he was described by George Thomson, future master of Corpus Christi College as "the most brilliant man of my year, among the most brilliant I have ever met".[4] Pinsent then studied law.[1]


He met Wittgenstein, two years older, as an undergraduate at Trinity College, Cambridge in 1912.[1] He acted as Wittgenstein's subject in psychological experiments on rhythm in speech and music, and he struck up a rapport, based on shared interests in music and mathematics.[1] That led to holidays together, including trips to Iceland and Norway, which Wittgenstein paid for.[5] His diary (1912–1914) mentions his times and travels with Wittgenstein.

First World War[edit]

During the First World War, Pinsent was deemed unsuitable for active military service. He trained as a test pilot instead and worked at the Royal Aircraft Establishment in Farnborough, where he was killed in a flying accident in May 1918.[1]


  1. ^ a b c d e Loners: The Life Path of Unusual Children Sula Wolff, 1995, p. 161, Books-Google-161.
  2. ^ Galison, Peter Louis; Roland, Alex (2000). Atmospheric Flight in the Twentieth Century. Springer. p. 360. ISBN 0-7923-6037-0.
  3. ^ Goldstein, Laurence (1999). Clear and Queer Thinking. Rowman & Littlefield. p. 179. ISBN 0-8476-9546-8.
  4. ^ Kölbel, Max (2004). Wittgenstein's Lasting Significance. Routledge. p. 150. ISBN 0-415-30517-9.
  5. ^ "Ludwig Wittgenstein: Cambridge". Cambridge Wittgenstein Archive. Archived from the original on 2008-02-22. Retrieved 2008-02-28.

External links[edit]