Bertrand Arthur William Russell was born 1872 in Wales, as
the grandson of Lord John Russell, the 1st Earl Russell, whom he succeeded to
the earldom in 1931. He had an illustrious (and controversial) career as a
philosopher, mathematician, and social reformer. He taught at Cambridge early,
where he produced most of his important mathematical works, including the Principles
of Mathematics (1903) and Principia Mathematica (3 vol., 1910-13,
with Alfred North Whitehead), in which he tried to show that the laws of
mathematics could be deduced from the basic axioms of logic. His mathematical
work influenced twentieth-century symbolic logic, set theory in mathematics, and
logical positivism, especially through the work of his student Ludwig
Wittgenstein. Russell was a rationalist who was convinced that individual facts
were logically independent and that knowledge depended on data from original
His radical views on subjects such as marriage, sex, adultery, and homosexuality made him controversial during most of his life and, combined with his social activism, prevented him from having a traditional academic career. Eventually he came to support himself mainly by writing and lecturing around the world. During World War I, he was an active pacifist. The real threat of Naziism caused him to abandon pacifism during World War II. After that war, however, he returned to pacifism and became a leader in the antinuclear movement. In the 1960s, he organized European opposition to Vietnam war, along with Jean-Paul Sartre. Among his most popular writings were Marriage and Morals (1929), A History of Western Philosophy (1945), and his autobiography (3 vol., 1967-69). In 1950 he was awarded the Nobel Prize in literature.
Shortly after the JFK assassination, he became interested in it, garnering much of his information from Ralph Schoenman and Mark Lane. He published his famous dissenting article “16 Questions on the Assassination” in the September 1964 issue of M.S. Arnoni’s The Minority of One, where he credited Mark Lane for much of that information. Although not mentioned there, Ralph Schoenman had surely also influenced him. For this article, Russell was heavily criticized in Time and the Guardian. The liberal I.F. Stone also criticized him in an article in the 5 October 1964 issue of his newsletter I.F. Stone’s Weekly (which article Raymond Marcus later reproduced in his Addendum B.) At the minimum, Russell exercised bad judgment in preparing “16 Questions,” for he seems to have been influenced strongly by a single trans-Atlantic phone call with Lane. He included statements like “a sorrily incompetent document” which “covers its authors in shame,” which could not have been justified because the Warren Commission Report had not yet been published.
Concerning “16 Questions,” Russell supporter Hugh Trevor-Roper wrote in “The Slovenly Warren Report,” which appeared as pages 49–57 of Jay David’s The Weight of the Evidence: “And anyway, documented or undocumented, the attacks of the orthodox on the heretics have been of a virulence incompatible with the reasonable belief. When Lord Russell argued his dissent, he was attacked by Time magazine, and in England by the Guardian, as a senile dotard whose beliefs could be dismissed unexamined. His supporters were declared to be psychological cases. The New York Herald Tribune, having published a personal attack on him, refused in advance to publish any reply.”
Bertrand Russell died in 1970.