Francis Skinner


Francis Skinner

Francis Skinner (1912-1941) was a friend, collaborator, and alleged lover of the Austrian philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein. He was born in 1912 in Letchworth, Hertfordshire, England. While studying mathematics at Cambridge in 1930, Skinner fell under the Wittgenstein's influence and "became utterly, uncritically, and almost obsessively devoted to Wittgenstein." [Monk, "Ludwig Wittgenstein: The Duty of Genius", p. 331] . Their relationship was characterized by Skinner's eagerness to please Wittgenstein and conform to his opinions. In 1934, the two made plans to emigrate to the Soviet Union and become manual labourers, but they only visited the country briefly.

Skinner graduated with a degree in Mathematics from Cambridge in 1933 and was awarded a postgraduate fellowship. For three years he used his fellowship assisting Wittgenstein in preparing a book on philosophy and mathematics (never published). [Monk, "Ludwig Wittgenstein: The Duty of Genius", p. 334] However, Wittgenstein's hostility towards academia resulted in Skinner's withdrawal from university, first to become a gardener, and later a mechanic (much to the dismay of Skinner's family). In the late 1930s though, Wittgenstein grew increasingly distant, until Skinner's death from polio in 1941.

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