Yorick Smythies

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Yorick Smythies (1917–1980) was a pupil of philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein. He worked as a librarian.


Smythies studied Moral Sciences at King's College, Cambridge from 1935–39, gaining a 1st Class degree. He took notes of Max Newman's 1934 lecture course on logic there.[1]

Smythies was one of few students Wittgenstein allowed to take lecture notes: at times the only one.[2] Those notes became key sources for reconstruction of those lectures. Smythies and Wittgenstein also conducted intense written correspondence, but most of this is lost. He was at Wittgenstein's bedside around the time of his death, with a few other former students.

Prescribed amphetamines for depression, Smythies became dependent on them.[3] Munz denies Ray Monk's claim that Smythies suffered from schizophrenia.[4] Smythies worked as a librarian at the University of Oxford.[4] He wrote philosophy of his own, some intended for publication, but published almost nothing during his lifetime. He became a Catholic convert,[5] and married Peg Bovey, an architectural lecturer, who after his death married Rush Rhees.[6]

In literature[edit]

Smythies was the basis for the character Hugo Belfounder in the novel Under the Net by Iris Murdoch.[7]


  1. ^ Matthias Baaz; Christos H. Papadimitriou; Hilary W. Putnam; Dana S. Scott; Charles L. Harper, Jr (6 June 2011). Kurt Gödel and the Foundations of Mathematics: Horizons of Truth. Cambridge University Press. p. 152. ISBN 978-1-139-49843-2. 
  2. ^ Justin Broackes (2012). Iris Murdoch, Philosopher. OUP Oxford. p. 125. ISBN 978-0-19-928990-5. 
  3. ^ Michael Fitzgerald (2 August 2004). Autism and Creativity: Is There a Link between Autism in Men and Exceptional Ability?. Routledge. p. 318 note 279. ISBN 978-1-135-45340-4. 
  4. ^ a b "Ludwig Wittgenstein and Yorick Smythies. A hitherto Unknown Relationship, Volker A. Munz, From the ALWS archives: A selection of papers from the International Wittgenstein Symposia in Kirchberg am Wechsel". Retrieved 30 July 2015. 
  5. ^ Ray Monk (31 March 2012). Ludwig Wittgenstein: The Duty of Genius. Random House. p. 463. ISBN 978-1-4481-1267-8. 
  6. ^ Phillips, D. Z. "Rhees, Rush". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/65652.  (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  7. ^ Colin Wilson (2007). The Angry Years: The Rise and Fall of the Angry Young Men. Robson. p. 163. ISBN 978-1-86105-972-7.