Alexander Bain

There are many names that are worth taking note of in the world of philosophy and one name that deserves to be known is Alexander Bain—a Scottish educationalist and philosopher. He is also known as one of the most innovative and prominent minds in different fields that include logic, education reform, psychology, linguistics and moral philosophy. Alexander Bain was also the founder of Mind and this is worth taking note of since it was the very first journal of its kind to focus on psychology as well as analytical philosophy. He was also the man responsible for the application of the scientific method to the study of psychology. At the University of Aberdeen, Alexander Bain also held the inaugural Regius Chair position in Logic. He was also a professor in English Literature and Moral Philosophy. There were a couple of times where he was elected as the Lord Rector at the School.

His Early Life

It was in Aberdeen, Scotland where Alexander Bain was born to Margaret Paul and George Bain on June 11, 1818. George, his father, was a veteran soldier and a weaver. In fact, Alexander Bain left school at 11; he got a weaver job and this is why in the rex philosophorum, he was described as a “Weevir.” Alexander Bain also attended lectures held in the Aberdeen Public Library and the Mechanic’s Institute of Aberdeen. In 1839, he enrolled in Marischal College and met Professor John Cruickshank, a professor of mathematics who was of great influence to Alexander Bain. He also met Thomas Clark, a professor of chemistry, and William Knight who taught Natural Philosophy.

Nearing the completion of his degree as an undergraduate, he associated with the Westminster Review as a contributor and this was where his article The Electrotype and the Daguerrotype was published. At around the same time, his connection to John Stuart Mill was founded and developed into a friendship that lasted a lifetime. During his college studies and career, he stood out for his prowess in mental philosophy, physics and mathematics. He was so good that he even graduated with the highest honors.

Alexander Bain substituted for the regular professor in 1841 and taught Moral Philosophy. The professor then was ill and unable to continue with his academic work. Bain was on the job for three terms while continuing with his article contributions to the Westminster while helping John Stuart Mill make revisions on his Systems of Logic manuscript (1842).

His Academic Career

The year 1845 was a big year for Alexander Bain since he was given the job as a Professor of Natural Philosophy and Mathematics at the University of Glasgow. In 1846, he quit the position and made more time for writing since he preferred a wider field. Two years later, he decided to make the move to London and took under Sir Chadwick at the Board of Health. His work was focused on becoming a noted affiliate of the intellectual circle along with John Stuart Mill and George Grote. He also devoted a lot of his time and work to social reform.

Several years after when he was 37 years old, he had the chance to publish a major work of his which was The Senses and Intellect. In 1859, he followed it up with another major work that was entitled The Emotions and the Will. Alexander Bain was a very busy man. At the University of London he worked as an examiner in Moral Philosophy and Logic from 1857-61 and 1864-69. It was also there that he became an instructor for Indian Civil Services and Moral Science Examinations.

He later moved to a new position at the University of Aberdeen which as new at the time. It was still newly formed since it was the time that the Scottish Universities Commission amalgamated two universities—Marischal College and King’s College, Aberdeen.

Alexander Bain was a man ahead of his time and it was one of his greatest triumphs that he got people to pay more attention to the study of linguistics. In 1959, the subjects of English and logic were not really a focus in Aberdeen so he put a lot of his time and effort into rectifying any deficiencies. He not only raised the educational standards in North Scotland in the University of Abderdeen, but he also worked to establish the School of Philosophy. His work at Aberdeen also influenced the way grammar and composition was taught in the entire United Kingdom.

His philosophical works were also used in the classroom but they came in condensed versions since his original works were much too long and bulky to be used in the classroom. In fact, in 1870 he published a work entitled Logic which was written specifically to be used in classrooms. The book was loosely based on some works by John Stuart Mill.

Social Reform

Bain had a special interest in development and social justice. In fact, he actively took part in social and political movements in his time. After he retired from the Chair of Logic post, he was twice elected as the Lord Rector at the University of Aberdeen. He worked hard to advocate reform especially when it came to how sciences were taught. He also supported the trust to include modern languages in the school curriculum. He was also known to be a strong supporter of student’s rights.

After Alexander Bain gave up his post as a professor and Chair at the University of Aberdeen, he was succeeded by one of his most brilliant students, William Minto. However, retirement did not stop him from working on the subjects and issues which he was passionate for. He still worked on papers on books about teaching English and rhetoric.

The last years of his life were spent in Aberdeen and in private. He was married twice but never had any children. Alexander Bain died on September 18, 1903 and his last request was that no stone should be put on his grave and his books were to serve as his monuments.