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George Berkeley (1685 - 1753):
Philosopher, Dean of Derry and Bishop of Cloyne


George Berkeley was born on 12 March 1685 at Dysart Castle, Co. Kilkenny. Educated TCD, where he remained until 1713 as fellow and tutor. In 1709 he published his Essay towards a New Theory of Vision and developed his thought further in A Treatise Concerning the Principles of Human Knowledge (1710) and Dialogues Between Hylas and Philonous (1713).

Between 1714 and 1721 he traveled widely in France and Italy and when he returned to Ireland, wrote Essay Towards Preventing the Ruin of Great Britain. He entered the Church and in 1724 he was as appointed to the deanery of Derry. He then advanced the project of a college in the Bermudas, to reform the English colonists and civilize the natives. For this he was given a government grant of £20,000. He sailed for the West Indies in 1728 but never arrived there, staying for three years in Rhode Island. His Alciphron, written there, defends religion against freethinkers. The grant was withdrawn, and he returned in 1731.

In 1734 Berkeley was appointed Bishop of Cloyne but devoted himself to philosophical speculation. That year he published The Analyst a critical examination of Newtonian mathematics and in 1735 the first of three volumes of the Querist, containing in all some five hundred questions on the social and economic problems of Ireland, 'with hints on legislation and political economy.' Further pamphlets on Ireland followed with appeals for religious toleration. The last of his philosophical works was Siris (1744).

In 1752 failing health forced his resignation and he moved to Oxford, where he died in January 1753. He is buried in Christ Church Cathedral



Born: 1685
Died: 1753
Patrick Devlin