Ludwig Wittgenstein: A Chronology of his Life & Work

 Ludwig Wittgenstein: A Chronology of his Life and Work


(Ludwig Wittgenstein in 1905, aged 16 (photo reproduced here by kind permission of the ALWS))

This is a webpage for a forthcoming and new chronological account of the life and work of Ludwig Wittgenstein, perhaps the most important philosopher of the 20th Century.

Over the next few months, parts of this chronological information will appear on the site, in a trial version, with invitations for corrections.

The first three installments, already available on the site, cover events up to October 1911:

the history of the Wittgenstein family
Ludwig Wittgenstein's childhood, and his youth,
his student-years in Berlin and Manchester

Then, from 18th October 2011, the site will slowly build up information covering events up to the end of 1926, at the same pace as these events took place, exactly one century ago:

Wittgenstein's arrival in Cambridge, to study with Bertrand Russell
his life and work during this period in Cambridge (1911-1913)
his first extended stay in Skjolden, Norway (1913-1914)
his experiences during the First World War
his detention in a prisoner-of-war camp (1918-1919)

his decision to give up doing philosophy
his time spent working as a teacher in Austrian schools
and his attempts to get his Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus published


Q.: When will information on the later parts of Wittgenstein's life (i.e., post-1926) be published on the site?

A.: I'm not sure; it rather depends on how successful these first parts of the site are.

Q.: Why does this site as yet feature so few photos of Wittgenstein?

A.: I'm very grateful to the Austrian Ludwig Wittgenstein Society (ALWS), who have recently granted me permission to use some of the photos of Wittgenstein for which they hold the copyright, and these will be uploaded to the site soon. If more photos of Wittgenstein are what you want, you can't do much better than the website of the British Wittgenstein Society ( and the Cambridge Wittgenstein Archive ( Of course if you own the copyright to any such photos, and would care to allow me to use them on this site for free, I'd be only too happy to hear from you, and would credit you appropriately.

Q.: How is this content of this site related to the existing biographies of Wittgenstein?

A.: This site draws heavily for its content on the factual information about Wittgenstein's life contained in the two great biographies: Brian McGuinness's Wittgenstein, A Life: Young Ludwig, 1889-1921, (London: Penguin, 1990), and Ray Monk's Ludwig Wittgenstein: The Duty of Genius, (London: Jonathan Cape, 1990). Its construction would not have been possible without these. (They are referred to on this website as 'McGuinness', and 'Monk', respectively). However, this site is in no way meant to be a replacement for, or rival to, these biographies: it will contain little of the interpretive material that also makes those books so invaluable. (Neither is it intended to violate their copyright: only small passages from such biographies are actually quoted on this site). It does, though, seek to provide something they do not: a factual and purely chronological account of the events in Wittgenstein's life (many of which are below the threshold of consequence for a proper biography), as well as those philosophical thoughts he wrote down in notebooks which have survived. Many other materials (books, articles and websites) have also been consulted in the construction of this site: it's not just a digest of the factual bits of McGuinness's and Monk's books.

Q.: Will this site feature discussion of Wittgenstein's ideas among interested parties?

A.: No, sorry, that's beyond my technical capacity. 

Q.: Don't you know that there's a chronology of Wittgenstein's life and work included with the electronic edition of Ludwig Wittgenstein: Gesamtbriefwechsel/ Complete Correspondence (

A.: Yes, I do. But my institution doesn't yet have access to it, and I haven't yet been able to consult it. I also want this resource to be constructed entirely independently, and I don't want there to be any suspicion that I've violated their copyright.

Q.: I'd like to find out more about Wittgenstein's philosophy: what should I do?

A.: Aside from reading his works, of course, if you're UK-based you should certainly join the British Wittgenstein Society (, which has an annual conference, annual Ludwig Wittgenstein lectures, and whose website features a host of information about Wittgenstein scholars, books about Wittgenstein, book reviews, etc.

On the European continent, there's the Austrian Ludwig Wittgenstein society (, the Nordic Wittgenstein Society (, and the Internationalen Ludwig Wittgenstein Gesellschaft (

In the U.S.A., there's a North American Wittgenstein Society ( 

Q.: Aside from the two great biographies, what are the other works referred to on this site?

A.: The other materials referred to most often here are as follows:

Paul Engelmann, Letters from Ludwig Wittgenstein, with a Memoir, (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1967).

K.T.Fann (ed.), Ludwig Wittgenstein: The Man and His Philosophy, (New Jersey: Humanities Press, and Sussex: Harvester Press, 1967).

Gottlob Frege, ‘Briefe an Ludwig Wittgenstein’, in B.F.McGuinness & R.Haller (eds.), Wittgenstein in Focus – Im Brennpunkt: Wittgenstein, (Amsterdam: Rodopi, 1989), pp.3-33.

Kelly Hamilton, ‘Wittgenstein and the Mind’s Eye’, in J.C.Klagge (ed.), Wittgenstein: Biography and Philosophy, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001).

Edward Kanterian, Ludwig Wittgenstein, (London: Reaktion Books, 2007).

C.Grant Luckhart (ed.), Wittgenstein; Sources and Perspectives, (Hassocks: Harvester/Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1979). 

Brian F.McGuinness (ed.), Wittgenstein and His Times, (Oxford: Blackwell, 1982).

Norman Malcolm, Ludwig Wittgenstein: A Memoir, (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1958).

Georg Henrik von Wright (ed.), A Portrait of Wittgenstein as a Young Man, from the Diary of David Hume Pinsent, 1912-1914, (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1990).  

Rush Rhees (ed.), Recollections of Wittgenstein, (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1984).

Susan G.Sterrett, Wittgenstein Flies a Kite: A Story of Models of Wings and Models of the World, (New York: Pi Press, 2006).

Michael Nedo, G.Moreton & A.Finlay, Ludwig Wittgenstein: There Where You are Not, (Black Dog Publishing, 2005).

Alexander Waugh, The House of Wittgenstein: A Family at War, (London: Bloomsbury, 2008).