William Ernest Johnson

William Ernest Johnson

William Ernest Johnson (June 23, 1858January 14, 1931) was a British logician mainly remembered for his "Logic" (1921–1924), in 3 volumes.

He taught at King's College, Cambridge for nearly thirty years. He wrote a bit on economics, and John Maynard Keynes was one of his students. Johnson was a colleague of Keynes's father, John Neville Keynes.

"Logic" was dated at the time of its publication, and Johnson can be seen as a member of the British logic "old guard" pushed aside by the "Principia Mathematica" of Alfred North Whitehead and Bertrand Russell. But an article entitled "The Logical Calculus" (Johnson 1892) reveals that he had nontrivial technical capabilities in his youth, and that he was significantly influenced by the formal logical work of Charles Sanders Peirce. The article begins as follows:

"As a material machine economises the exertion of force, so a symbolic calculus economises the exertion of intelligence ... the more perfect the calculus, the smaller the intelligence compared to the results."

A.N. Prior's "Formal Logic" cites this article several times.


* Johnson, W.E. (1892), "The Logical Calculus", "Mind" 1 (New Series), 3–30, 235–250, 340–357.
* Grattan-Guinness, Ivor (2000), "The Search for Mathematical Roots 1870–1940". Princeton University Press.

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