Peirce, Charles Sanders

Peirce, Charles Sanders

biographical name

(born Sept. 10, 1839, Cambridge, Mass., U.S.—died April 19, 1914, near Milford, Pa.) U.S. scientist, logician, and philosopher. He was the son of the mathematician and astronomer Benjamin Peirce (1809–80). After attending Harvard University he spent 30 years with the U.S. Coast Guard Survey (1861–91). As a scientist, he is noted for his contributions to the theory of probability, the study of gravity, and the logic of scientific methodology. He eventually abandoned the physical sciences to study logic, which in its widest sense he identified with semiotics. He lectured on logic at Johns Hopkins University from 1879 to 1894, then spent the rest of his life writing in seclusion. He is regarded as the founder of pragmatism. Though he made eminent contributions to deductive logic, he was a student primarily of “the logic of science”—i.e., of induction and of “retroduction,” or “abduction,” the forming and accepting on probation of a hypothesis in order to explain surprising facts. His lifelong ambition was to establish induction and abduction as permanent branches of logic.

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