David Pinsent

David Pinsent

David Hume Pinsent (1891 – 8 May 1918)[1] was a friend and collaborator of the Austrian philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein. Wittgenstein described him as his first and only friend,[2] and dedicated his Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus (1922) to Pinsent's memory.[3]



Pinsent, a descendant of the philosopher David Hume, gained a first-class honours degree in mathematics at Cambridge University, where he was described by George Thomson, future master of Corpus Christi College as "the most brilliant man of my year, among the most brilliant I have ever met."[4] Pinsent then studied law.[1]

He met Wittgenstein, who was two years older than he, when he was an undergraduate at Cambridge in 1912.[1] He acted as Wittgenstein's subject in psychological experiments on rhythm in speech and music, and struck up a rapport based on shared interests in music and mathematics.[1] This led to holidays together, including trips to Iceland and Norway.[5]

During World War I, Pinsent was deemed unsuitable for active military service. He trained as a test pilot instead, and worked at the Royal Aircraft Establishment in Farnborough, where he was killed in a flying accident in May 1918.[1] His diary (1912–1914) mentions his times and travels with Wittgenstein.


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