Ludwig Wittgenstein: A Biographical Sketch

There is part of me that wants to write my biography and indeed I would like to have it all laid out clearly both for myself and for others; not so much as to hold judgment over it, but merely to be honest and open about it.
(Ludwig Wittgenstein, 28 December 1929 in the manuscript volume IV. Philosophische Bemerkungen)

The family history of the “Wittgensteins” begins at the end of the 18th century, in a small village called Laasphe in the Principality of Wittgenstein in Westphalia. Around this time Moses Meier, the son of Meyer Moses from Laasphe, the landholder’s steward, adopts the name Wittgenstein.

Hermann Christian Wittgenstein, Ludwig Wittgenstein’s grandfather, was born on 12 September 1802 in Korbach, in the Principality of Waldeck, where his father, Moses Meier-Wittgenstein and his wife Brendel Simon had built up the largest trading business in the locality. In 1839, having converted to Protestantism, Hermann Christian Wittgenstein marries Fanny Figdor (b. Kittsee, 7.4.1814; d. Hietzing, 21.10.1890), the daughter of one of the notable Viennese Jewish business families, who had also adopted the Protestant faith before marrying. Probably as a result of business decline in Korbach, Hermann Christian had already set up as a wool merchant in Leipzig, which was a major trading centre, from 1838 onwards in partnership with his wife’s family.

Hermann Christian Wittgenstein

(Left) Hermann Christian Wittgenstein (1802-1878), Grandfather of Ludwig Wittgenstein

The first seven children are born in Gohlis, the home of the Wittgensteins near Leipzig: Anna 1840, Marie 1841, Paul 1842, Bertha 1844, Louis 1845, Karl, Ludwig Wittgenstein’s father, 1847 and Josephine 1848. In 1850 the family moves to Austria, first to Vösendorf and eventually, in 1860, to Vienna. In Austria, Hermann Christian Wittgenstein devotes himself successfully to the real estate business, buying up and leasing run-down properties, mostly in Hungary and the Balkans, and disposing of them at a profit after carrying out improvements. The four youngest of the eleven children are born in Vösendorf: Clara, Ludwig Wittgenstein’s favorite aunt, 1850, Milly 1852, Lydia 1854 and Clothilde 1855.

Karl Wittgenstein with his ten brothers and sisters taken on the occasion of the silver wedding anniversary of Hermann Christian Wittgenstein and Fanny, née Figdor

(Right) Karl Wittgenstein with his ten brothers and sisters taken on the occasion of the silver wedding anniversary of Hermann Christian Wittgenstein and Fanny, née Figdor

Karl, Ludwig Wittenstein’s father, seems to have been the strongest character among the eleven children. The joker of the family, he was unpredictable in what he got up to. At 11 he makes his first attempt to run away from home, at 17 he is expelled from high school after a consilium abeundi for writing an essay in which he expresses doubts about the immortality of the soul. A year later, in 1865, he runs away to America. Arriving without any means whatever in the State of New York, and possessing only a violin, he first supports himself by working as a waiter, a musician in a bar and a barman, and later inter alia by giving lessons in the violin and the French horn and teaching Maths, German, Latin and Greek. The family hears nothing from him for almost a year. The exchange of letters which then follows, especially with his brothers and sisters, shows how difficult this time in America was for him, but how the adventure had given him confidence in his own abilities. At the beginning of 1867, after more than two years, he returns to Vienna and the family with more respect for his parents’ authority: Whatever happens, I shall do what my parents wish. (from the Familienerinnerungen, the recollections of the family by Wittgenstein’s sister Hermine)

Wittgenstein's father Karl Wittgenstein

(Left) Wittgenstein's father Karl Wittgenstein (1847-1913)

In Vienna he completes a brief period of study at the Technical University. This is followed by a series of trainee jobs in various technical firms. He begins his career in 1872, first as a technical draughtsman, then as a building engineer in the construction of the Teplitz steel-rolling mills. As early as 1876 he is elected to the management board, becoming Director of Teplitz Rolling Mills in 1877 and soon its main shareholder. He establishes the first rail cartel in Austria-Hungary, and in 1884 acquires all the shares in the Bohemian Coal and Steel Company. Besides taking over more steelworks (Poldihütte, Rudolfshütte, etc.), in 1886, in his capacity as General/Coordinating Director of the first Austrian steel cartel, he unites the Teplitz Works with the Prague Iron Industry Company .

A determining factor in this remarkable career was the possession of qualities for which he was criticized as, among other things, an American in Austria: decisive, hard-working, striving and unconventional in his decisions, with a willingness to take great risks.

At the beginning of 1898, at the age of 52, in the face of huge public criticism, Karl Wittgenstein resigns from all his offices, including his post on the administrative council of the Austrian Kreditanstalt, in protest transferring his fortune into real estate and into stocks and shares in Switzerland, Holland and the United States. In this way he ensures its survival for the family through two world wars, and the amassed fortune is further greatly increased through the inflation which follows.

The mother of Karl Wittgenstein’s eight children is Leopoldine Kalmus, known as Poldi, who was born in Vienna on 4.3.1850. He had married her in 1873, at the start of his astonishing career. Jacob Kalmus, the father-in-law, a rather successful Viennese businessman, came from a Prague Jewish family, whose mother had however already converted to Roman Catholicism. His wife, Marie Stallner, came from an Austrian catholic family of businessman and landowners in Lichtenwald in Styria (in present-day Slovenia).

Karl Wittgenstein and his wife Leopoldine

(Right) Karl Wittgenstein and his wife Leopoldine

Probably the strongest binding element between Ludwig Wittgenstein’s parents was music, and it had a formative influence on him which lasted all his life. Poldi Wittgenstein herself was a gifted pianist, and the Wittgenstein house in the Alleegasse was one of Vienna’s musical centres. Among the artistes who were regular guests there were Joseph Joachim, the adopted son of Fanny and Hermann Christian Wittgenstein, Johannes Brahms, Clara Schumann, Josef Labor, Gustav Mahler and Bruno Walter. Enthusiasm for making and listening to music remained even when the “children” had grown up. Brahms, Clara Schumann and Mahler were frequent house guests. Richard Strauss often played duets with Paul. They developed the same enthusiasm for the chamber music of Luis Spohr. Karl supported Schönberg; Bruno Walter, the Joachim Quartet, Erica Morini and Pablo Casals could be heard talking and playing together at the family’s musical evenings. R. Mühlfeld gave the first private performances of the Brahms clarinet sonatas. Pictures by Gustav Klimt and the artists of the Vienna Secession could be seen along with ... the early works of Puvis de Chavannes, Mestrovic and Segantini which hung alongside masters of the Munich and Vienna Schools. From time to time superb autograph manuscripts of the Viennese musical classics were to be seen lying around open as one wandered about in conversation with Hanslick or Kalbeck.” (E. Findell, Music Review 32/1971).

Ludwig Wittgenstein

(Left) Ludwig Wittgenstein


Ludwig Josef Johann Wittgenstein was born in Vienna, at Alleegasse 16 (now Argentinierstraße), on 26 April 1889 at 8.30 in the evening.

Baptised as a catholic, in his mother’s faith, Ludwig is the youngest of eight siblings. His sisters are: Hermine (Mining, 1874-1950), Helene (Lenka, 1879-1956, married name Salzer) and Margarethe (Gretl, 1882-1958, married name Stonborough) and his brothers: Hans (1877-1902), Kurt (1878-1918), Rudi (1881-1904) and Paul (1887-1961).

The five brothers and sisters: Hermine, Helene, Margarete, Paul and Ludwig

(Right)The five brothers and sisters: Hermine, Helene, Margarete, Paul and Ludwig

His childhood and early youth are spent in Vienna and at Hochreith, the family’s summer residence near Vienna. Like his brothers and sisters, he is first taught by private tutors according to a plan devised by his strict father. Following the presumed suicide of his eldest brother Hans, who disappeared aboard a boat in Chesapeake Bay, Massachusets, in April 1902 at the age of 26, the two youngest sons are sent to a state school.

The Hochreith

(Left) The Hochreith


Because he has had inadequate preparatory education for a Viennese Gymnasium, a kind of school corresponding to an English grammar school, Ludwig Wittgenstein starts in the autumn at the k.u.k. Staatsoberrealschule in Linz, a state senior high school specializing in modern subjects. There he receives a less classical and a more practical education than in a Gymnasium.

After the suicide of their brother Rudi in Berlin in 1904, their father shows more understanding and patience for the two youngest sons. He accedes to Ludwig’s wish to stay away from school. His father instructs his wife in a letter that Lucki ... is to come to Vienna so as to have for the present a chance to laze about properly. If Lucki wants to learn at home, that’s fine; if he wants to go into a workshop for the next few months, which he needs to do sometime in any case, that’s fine too. ... He should laze around all he wants, sleep, eat, let off steam, go to the theatre, etc.


In summer Ludwig finishes school in Linz and gets his matriculation. His first intention had been to study Physics in Vienna with Ludwig Boltzmann, but after Boltzmann’s suicide that summer, he decides, possibly as a result of having earlier read Franz Reuleaux’ Theoretische Kinematik, Braunschweig 1875 (The Kinematics of Machinery, London 1876), to study engineering in Berlin. On 23 October he enrols in the Technische Hochschule in Charlottenburg, in Berlin, as a student of mechanical engineering. It seems, however, that studying in Berlin does not satisfy him. He later describes the time there as wasted.


On his father’s advice, Wittgenstein goes to England, where he enrols in the spring at the College of Technology in Manchester. At an outpost of the university, in Glossop, a small place on the edge of the Derbyshire moors, he initially busies himself with kite-flying experiments. In the autumn he starts at Manchester University as a research student in the Department of Engineering, working on the development of a ‘motorless’ aero-engine,that is, one not driven by a conventional piston engine, but which has the propeller itself as the motor, driven by repulsion jets on the propeller tips - initially from a variable combustion chamber arranged centrally on the propeller shaft, later with combustion chambers in the jets themselves.

A propulsion mechanism of this kind had been proposed in Antiquity, in the 1st century BC, by Hero of Alexandria in his Aeolipile. Ludwig Wittgenstein had already as a child studied an 18th century German translation of this work from his father’s library with great interest .

In his aeronautical studies, Wittgenstein followed the path which had been proposed by Boltzmann: in Berlin he studied the properties of flying objects with reference to hot air balloons, in Derbyshire the stabilisation and steering of flying objects, while in Manchester he devoted himself to the central problem of aeronautics, the development of an aero-engine. In this regard, there were two problems associated with conventional motors which had to be overcome; firstly, the large weight of the crankshaft, power plant and drive-shaft; and secondly, the destabilising torque from propellers driven from a central shaft. Wittgenstein’s original construction concept solves both problems.

On 22 November 1910 Wittgenstein registers his invention at the patent office under: Ludwig Wittgenstein: “Improvements in Propellers applicable for Aerial Machines.” Patent No. 27.087, - AD 1910 GB. About thirty years later another Austrian, Friedrich Doblhoff, reinvents the engine without knowing of Wittgenstein’s work. The invention leads to a completely new concept for a helicopter, which is successfully tested for the first time in 1943.

The mathematical problems associated with the development of the propeller profile interest him more than the further technical development of the motor itself, and he begins discussing questions of mathematics, especially about the foundations of mathematics, with two colleagues from the engineering laboratory. They first meet once a week, and later more frequently. Bertrand Russell’s book The Principles of Mathematics, published in 1903, prompts Wittgenstein to write to Russell.

Wittgenstein's Aero Engine. From the patent paper of 1910

(Left) Wittgenstein's Aero Engine. From the patent paper of 1910

The years preceding the First World War are years of intense intellectual activity in Cambridge. Russell is at the height of his activities in the field of logic; in 1910 he publishes the first volume of the Principia Mathematica with Alfred North Whitehead, a milestone in the history of Logic. G. E. Moore, then the most influential philosopher in Cambridge, had already published the Principia Ethica in 1903, and in the same year Frege had published the second volume of the Grundgesetze der Arithmetik.. The new logic as represented by Russell and Frege is Wittgenstein’s point of entry into philosophy. His inclination towards philosophy and his interest in it were already present. In his parents’ home he had read, among others, Schopenhauer, the philosophical aspects of Reuleaux’ Kinematics of Machinery and Boltzmann’s writings.

Ludwig Wittgenstein, Portrait from 1910 with a dedication to his friend Eccles

(Right) Ludwig Wittgenstein, Portrait from 1910 with a dedication to his friend Eccles


According to the memory of his sister Hermine, Wittgenstein was already working on a philosophical work at this time, which he then presented to Frege in Jena on his return from Vienna to England in the summer of 1911. It seems to have been the elderly Frege who encouraged Wittgenstein’s philosophical studies and advised him to go and study under Russell in Cambridge.

In the autumn Wittgenstein, although remaining enrolled in Manchester, finally moves to Cambridge as an affiliated student with Russell.

Great Court, Trinity College Cambridge

(Left) Great Court, Trinity College Cambridge


At the end of the first term Wittgenstein is still unsure whether to devote himself to philosophy or to aeronautics. Undecided, he asks Russell for advice. Russell tells him to write a vacation essay on any subject of his choice. The first sentence alone of the essay (which is no longer extant) suffices to convince Russell of Wittgenstein’s gifts, and he asks him to stay in Cambridge, to give up aeronautics, and to devote himself to philosophy.

Bertrand Russell

(Right) Bertrand Russell

And so Wittgenstein moves into Trinity College on 1 February, initially as an undergraduate, as a sophomore, but soon as an advanced student. Besides studying Logic and the Foundations of Mathematics with Russell, he attends Moore’s lectures on Psychology. His tutor is first the mathematician J. W. L. Glaisher, and later W. M. Fletcher. For a short while the logician W. E. Johnson is his coach and gives him tutorials in Logic, a venture soon discontinued because the student is quite unwilling to accept Johnson’s arguments. A very close friendship, however, very quickly develops between Russell and Wittgenstein: Getting to know Wittgenstein was one of the most exciting intellectual adventures of my life. (Mind 60, 1951) Wittgenstein has frequent discussions with Whitehead and makes friends with the economist John Maynard Keynes and the mathematician G. H. Hardy of Trinity College. He becomes an active member of the C. U. M. Sc., the Cambridge University Moral Science Club, a debating club of the Faculty of Moral Science, as the Philosophical Faculty of the University of Cambridge was called until the end of the 1960s. Wittgenstein lobbies to get Moore made chairman, and with his help new statutes are promulgated which are influential in changing the club’s practices and in raising the standard of debate. In December Wittgenstein gives his first paper there on the subject, What is Philosophy?

With David Pinsent, a maths student at Trinity College, later to become a friend, he conducts psychological experiments on rhythm in speech and music in the hope of contributing to the study of aesthetics. Pinsent is his experimental subject in these studies, as he notes in his diary: ... to act as a ‘subject’ in some experiments he is trying: to ascertain the extent and importance of rhythm in music. (13th May 1912)

Wittgenstein spends the summer, like most of his holidays, with his family in Austria, at Hochreith and in Vienna. In September he travels with his friend David Pinsent around Iceland. In November he is elected a member of the secret society, The Apostles. Known also as The Society or The Cambridge Conversazione Society, it was founded in 1820 by George Tomlinson, later to be Bishop of Gibraltar. Although not originally a secret society, it was nevertheless an association much given to ceremonial and arcane matters. It achieved especial significance at the turn of the century as practically all the important literary and intellectual personalities were counted among its members, as was later the so-called Bloomsbury Generation.

On his way to Vienna in December, Wittgenstein visits Frege in Jena.

Vater, Mutter und die Schwester Mining auf der Hochreit

(Left) Father, Mother and sister Mining at the Hochreit


On 20 January his father dies, leaving Wittgenstein a huge fortune. Back at Trinity College, he takes over Moore’s rooms in Whewells Court. On 6 March Wittgenstein’s first publication appears, a review of a book on scientific method, The Science of Logic by P. Coffey, in The Cambridge Review - A Journal of University Life and Thought.

With Philip Jourdain, a mathematician and friend of Russell’s, he works on the first translation of parts of Frege’s Grundgesetze der Arithmetik. Jourdain publishes these between 1915 and 1917 under his name in the philosophical journal The Monist, of which he was the English editor. In September Wittgenstein travels with David Pinsent to Norway. Between 2 and 9 October, in London, on the way to Vienna, he gives Russell an account of the work he has done on logic up to the present. Russell has a shorthand typist record Wittgenstein’s exposition. The typescript thus prepared, with detailed handwritten alterations by Wittgenstein and comments by Russell, is now to be found in the Russell Archive of McMaster University in Ontario, Canada. It is the first work of Wittgenstein’s to have been preserved, having the work number TS 201 published under the title Notes on Logic, as Appendix 1 in Notebooks, 1914-1916, Oxford 1961.

In mid-October, following the summer holidays, Wittgenstein sets preparations in motion for settling in Norway. He wants to escape what in his eyes is the atmosphere of superficial intellectualising of Cambridge. At the end of October he takes a room in a guest-house in Skjolden, a small remote place northeast of Bergen, where he intends to spend the winter in lonely contemplation of questions of logic. This stay is broken only by a short Christmas visit to the family in Vienna.

Postcard to Eccles. 1931

(Right) Postcard to Eccles. 1931


On 26 March, at the request of his Cambridge friends, G. E. Moore comes to Skjolden for two weeks for a progress report on Wittgenstein’s work. Wittgenstein dictates to him some results of his work on Logic: TS 301, published as Notes dictated to G. E. Moore in Norway Appendix II in Notebooks, 1914-1916.

Other manuscripts by Wittgenstein from this period, of which he speaks for example in his letters to Russell, cannot be found, such as the paper entitled Logic, intended as a dissertation for his B. A. degree. These were presumably destroyed by Wittgenstein himself, as it is known a large part of his other manuscripts were which he did not regard as substantial parts of his work. It is in this respect that the Wittgenstein papers differ from others, with their usual drafts, sketches and preliminary work. The literary papers that Ludwig Wittgenstein left constitute his complete works, albeit with the fragmentary structure reflecting its organic growth which causes considerable problems for any editor.

In the spring he starts building a wooden house in the mountains near Skjolden, where he hopes to find the quiet he needs for his work.Only at the end of June does he leave Norway and the place where, before reaching his 25th year; he has achieved important discoveries in logic; among other things developing his new symbolic system for so-called truth functions, which allows the explanation of logical truths as tautologies (Propositions 4.3 et seq in Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus).

Many years later, in 1931, Wittgenstein remarks of the time in Norway: ... it seems to me that I had given birth to new movements of thought within me. (MS 154)

Wittgenstein’s House in Norway

(Left) Wittgenstein’s House in Norway

In summer he goes to Vienna for his holidays and then to the Hochreith. Following his father’s death, Wittgenstein takes on, along with his inheritance, his father’s commitments as a benefactor of the arts. He sends the editor of Der Brenner, Ludwig von Ficker, a contribution of 100,000 crowns with the request, to distribute it to Austrian artists without means. Wittgenstein himself merely recommends an amount of 10,000 crowns for Der Brenner; the rest being distributed by Ficker as follows:

Georg Trakl 20,000 crowns, Rainer Maria Rilke 20,000, Carl Dallago 20,000, Oskar Kokoschka 5,000, Else Lasker-Schüler 4,000, Adolf Loos 2,000, Borromäus Heinrich 1,000, Hermann Wagner 1,000, Georg Oberkofler 1,000, Theodor Haecker 2,000, Theodor Däubler 2,000, Ludwig Erik Tesar 2,000, Richard Weiss 2,000, Karl Hauer 5,000, Franz Kranewitter 2,000 and Hugo Neugebauer 1,000.

On the eve of the war, Wittgenstein returns to Vienna. He is determined to enlist, but his motives, as his sister Hermine writes in the family memoirs (Familienerinnerungen), are not only of a patriotic nature: As I well know, he was not only concerned to defend his country; he had an intense desire to take on something difficult and demanding and to do something other than purely intellectual work. On 7 August he voluntarily reports for duty although excused from military service on the grounds of a double hernia. On the same day he is posted to a fortress artillery regiment. On 9 August he begins the first extant manuscript volume of the Logisch-philosophische Abhandlung, MS 101, published in Notebooks, 1914-1916.

A few days later, as a private soldier, he reaches the front aboard the patrol ship Goplana on the Vistula. On 30 October he begins the second manuscript, which he works on until 22.6.1915: MS 102, published in Notebooks, 1914-1916. In the middle of December he is transferred to an artillery workshop in Cracow. In view of his abilities, he is exceptionally accorded the privileges due to an officer.

The Guard-ship “Goplana” on the Vistula

(Right) The Guard-ship “Goplana” on the Vistula

Before the end of the first year of the war his brother Paul is seriously wounded, losing his right arm, and being taken prisoner by the Russians. Through his fate, Ludwig first learns the horror of the prospect of losing one’s career. Back in Vienna, Paul Wittgenstein continues to work at his career with extraordinary strength of will. He later achieves celebrity, notably in the USA. In 1932 Maurice Ravel writes for him his Concerto pour la main gauche.


After being wounded in an explosion in the workshop, and following a short stay in hospital in Cracow, Wittgenstein is transferred at the end of July to an artillery workshop aboard a train in the vicinity of Lwow.


At the beginning of the spring Wittgenstein is transferred at his own request to a howitzer regiment on the Galician front. There he begins, on 29 March, the third extant manuscript, on which he works until 10.1.1917: MS 103, published in Notebooks, 1914-1916, Oxford 1961.

He is decorated several times and is promoted to corporal on 1 September. He is then ordered to the school for artillery officers in Olmütz, where he meets Paul Engelmann, a pupil of Adolf Loos whom he had got to know in Vienna in 1914 and who arranges the meeting. Engelmann, who is soon to become a close friend, is interested in literature as well as architecture; he writes for and about his friends Karl Kraus and Adolf Loos, and some of his poems and essays are published by Kraus in Die Fackel. On 1st December Wittgenstein is made a cadet (Fähnrich) in the reserve.


On 26 January he returns to his old regiment in the Bukovina, where among other things he is caught up in the Kerensky Offensive and is decorated several times. After the truce with Russia on 28 November he spends his leave in Vienna.

Wittgenstein’s Military I.D. Card

(Left) Wittgenstein’s Military I.D. Card


Wittgenstein is promoted to reserve officer (Lieutenant) on 1 February. In the spring he is transferred to the southern front near Asiago and temporarily posted to a mountain artillery regiment.

On 8 May his friend David Pinsent has a fatal accident during a test flight in England. Because of limited suitability for military service, he had not been called up for active service, but trained as a test pilot.

On 30 July Wittgenstein is awarded the Band of the Military Service Medal with Swords for gallantry during the final Austrian offensive on the southern front. He spends his last major leave in July and August in Vienna and in the house of his uncle Paul Wittgenstein in Hallein near Salzburg, where he completes the final record for the Logisch-Philosphische Abhandlung, Manuscript 104, published as Prototractatus by Routledge and Kegan Paul, London 1971, and the typescripts of the Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus TSS 202, 203 and 204 later published as Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, Kegan Paul, London 1922.

At this time he is still trying unsuccessfully to get Jahoda and Siegel of Vienna, who produce Die Fackel, to publish the book.

At the end of September Wittgenstein is again at the front. Encircled by the Italians, he constructs, as he later describes to an English friend, his own mortar using a method dating back to antiquity: he winds bronze wire around a tree trunk of the same diameter as the shells and by means of an intense fire, fuses the metal into a gun barrel.

On 3 November he is finally taken prisoner by the Italians near Trento, along with the whole of the Austrian forces in the area. He is first in a camp near Como.

P.O.W.s in Italy

(Right) P.O.W.s in Italy


In January he is transferred to a POW camp at Cassino. On the way there he makes friends with the sculptor Michael Drobil and the teachers Hermann Hänsel and Franz Parak. With the completion of the Abhandlung (the German Manuscript, published in English as Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus), Wittgenstein experiences for himself what it means to lose one’s career, since he believes that he has now exhausted the possibilities for his working in Philosophy. He therefore decides, no doubt influenced by his new friends, to become a teacher when he is released from captivity.

In June, with the help of the Red Cross, he sends Russell and Frege each a copy of his manuscript, of which he had two in his rucksack when taken prisoner. Relations with his English friends are burdened by the war. Whitehead, who has lost a son on active service, does not want to hear Wittgenstein’s name mentioned; the militant pacifism that put Russell in prison contrasts strikingly with Wittgenstein’s voluntary war service, although their mutual affection and regard has not been impaired by this.

In August Wittgenstein is released from captivity and returns to his family in Vienna. The first thing he does is to dispose of the whole of his inherited fortune, which he shares out among his brother and sisters. He then begins on 16 September his training as a primary school teacher in the Kundmanngasse teacher training institute in Vienna’s 3rd district. He believes that the Logisch-philosophische Abhandlung marks the definitive ending of his work in Philosophy. In the 1918 preface to the Abhandlung he writes, I therefore believe myself to have found, on all essential points, the final solution of the problems. And several years later he adds in a conversation with Frank Ramsey that no one could work on philosophy for more than five or ten years, and that his book had taken seven.

He again tries to get the Logisch-philosophische Abhandlung published, first by Braumüller in Vienna, whose insistence that the author share the printing costs he rejects as immoral, and then, with Frege’s help, in the journal Beiträge zur Geschichte des deutschen Idealismus, whose publisher demands changes in the manuscript as a precondition of publication. These Wittgenstein refuses. Ludwig von Ficker regards the financial risk as too great for publication in Der Brenner. Instead, he tries unsuccessfully, with Rainer Maria Rilke’s assistance, to arrange for publication by Insel Verlag in Leipzig, and later on by Otto Reichel, Eduard von Keyserling’s publisher in Darmstadt.

In the period from 13 to 20 December Wittgenstein meets Russell in The Hague to explain his book to him. To cover his travelling costs, he asks Russell in a letter from 1 November 1919, to sell the effects, furniture, books, etc which he had stored in Cambridge and to destroy the manuscripts to be found there: “Among my things are a load of diaries and manuscripts. These are all to be burned!!!" (Letters to Russell, Keynes and Moore, Oxford, 1974)


Russell had offered to write an introduction to the book to improve the chances of publication by Reclam-Verlag. At the beginning of April Wittgenstein receives the records of Russell’s introduction, although, as he writes to Russell on 9 April, he disagrees with some of it, both where you criticise me and where you simply try to explain my views. After Wittgenstein has read the German translation, he decides, at the beginning of May, against publication: The finer points of your English style were - it is obvious - lost in the translation, and what remained was superficiality and misunderstanding. (Letters to Russell, Keynes and Moore)

In July Wittgenstein ends his teacher training. The last attempt to publish his book fails because he rejects Russell’s introduction, which, he writes to Russell, should merely serve to help orient the publisher. Six weeks after the refusal from Reclam, on 7 July, Wittgenstein writes to Russell: “Reclam has of course not accepted my book, and for the moment I shall take no further steps to have it published, so it is completely at your disposal and you can do with it whatever you want. (Only when you change something in the text, indicate that the alteration is yours.)” (Letters to Russell, Keynes and Moore) In August Wittgenstein works as under-gardener in the monastery of Klosterneuburg near Vienna. In September he takes up his first position as primary school teacher in Trattenbach, a small village on the Semmering in Lower Austria.

Ludwig Wittgenstein. Portrait

(Left) Ludwig Wittgenstein. Portrait on receipt of his teaching qualification

Russell leaves in the autumn for a year in China as visiting professor at the University of Peking. He commissions a former student, the mathematician Dorothy Wrinch, to see to publication of Wittgenstein’s work.


On 14 January the syndicate of the Cambridge University Press (a committee of University academics which determines the publishing programme) rejects publication of the book because Wittgenstein’s manuscript is offered without Russell’s introduction. In February, Wilhelm Ostwald takes on publication, although only with Russell’s introduction. The Logisch-philosophische Abhandlung first appears in 1921 as the last number of Ostwald’s Annalen der Naturphilosophie. Wittgenstein is not involved in the editing.

Wittgenstein spends his summer holidays in Norway with Arvid Sjögren, a family friend, later to become the husband of his niece Clara. For the first time he lives in the cabin which he built for himself in Skjolden in 1914.

After fruitless attempts to find a publisher in Germany for Wittgenstein’s Abhandlung, and after the refusal by the Cambridge University Press, Dorothy Wrinch turns to a friend, C. K. Ogden, the editor of a scholarly series, The International Library of Psychology, Philosophy and Scientific Method, published by Kegan Paul. Ogden shows more understanding for the signficance of Wittgensntein’s work than the publishers and editors previously approached. He proposes to Russell to publish the work in the series of which he is the general editor.


In March Wittgenstein receives from Ogden the manuscript of the English translation of his book, and soon afterwards a reprint of the Annalen with the first publication of his Abhandlung. He is enraged at the slovenly edition and describes it as a pirate printing (Raubdruck). In a detailed correspondence with Ogden he revises the English translation, and on 22 June in a letter to the publishers Kegan Paul in London, transfers to them all the rights of publication. In August Wittgenstein meets Russell for a once more in connection with the book, on this occasion in Innsbruck.

In September he changes schools and is briefly a teacher in a secondary modern school in Hassbach, near Neunkirchen in Lower Austria. He dislikes his new environment, and especially the fact that he takes his class for one year only, and not, as is usual in smaller schools, right through their whole time in school. At his own request, he is transferred, once more as a primary teacher, to the small community of Puchberg on the Schneeberg.

Wittgenstein with his pupils in Puchberg

(Left) Wittgenstein with his pupils in Puchberg am Schneeberg

In November Wittgenstein receives the first author’s copies of the German-English edition of the Logisch-philosophische Abhandlung with the title of Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus proposed by Moore for the English translation.


Wittgenstein learns from Ogden that Frank Ramsey, who contributed substantially to the translation of the Logisch-philosophische Abhandlung, and who was still a student at Trinity College, wants to visit him in Austria. Ramsey does come to Puchberg for two weeks in September and Wittgenstein reads the Abhandlung with him for several hours a day and explains his ideas. In the course of these conversations he makes a series of amendments and corrections to the English translation in Ramsey’s copy and some annotations and changes in the German text. Many of these alterations were heeded in the second edition in 1933.

Ramsey publishes the first review of the Tractatus in the philosophical journal Mind in October. On 22 July 1924, he writes to his mother in Cambridge: We really live in a great time for thinking, with Einstein, Freud and Wittgenstein all alive, and all in Germany or Austria, those foes of civilisation!

Frank Plumpton Ramsey

(Right) Frank Plumpton Ramsey

Wittgenstein asks Ramsey to enquire about the possibility of formally completing his studies. Because of changes in the regulations, it is not possible for Wittgenstein to obtain the degree of B.A for which he had been working. Instead, Keynes and Ramsey propose that he work on a Ph.D. Keynes provides &163;50 for Wittgenstein’s travel costs.


Ramsey becomes a Fellow of King’s College. He spends the months before taking up his fellowship travelling on the Continent, staying in Vienna from March until October for psychoanalysis with Theodor Reik. He visits Wittgenstein regularly in Puchberg, where the two work together: @I too could hardly speak for several days because I had to talk all day long in the last few days. In the mornings at school and in the afternoons with Ramsey from Cambridge, who stayed nearly 14 days. It was a pleasure for me too, even if it was also a great effort. (Wittgenstein in a letter to his sister Hermine)

Wittgenstein spends his summer holidays again in Vienna and at the Hochreith, postponing the planned visit to England until the following year. In autumn he changes schools again, and is transferred to Otterthal, a village near Trattenbach.

On 25 December Schlick writes to Wittgenstein for the first time, asking that he may visit him in Puchberg with a selected group of pupils and colleagues. Since the appearance of the Logisch-philosophische Abhandlung in Ostwald’s Annalen der Naturphilosophie in 1921Wittgenstein’s ideas are being discussed with great interest in Vienna, especially since the time in 1922 when the German mathematician Reidemeister, who had just been made professor in Vienna, gave a seminar paper on Wittgenstein’s book in the seminar class of the mathematician Professor Hans Hahn. The loose discussion group around Moritz Schlick, later to develop into the Vienna Circle (Wiener Kreis) is convinced of the importance and validity of Wittgenstein’s basic ideas. This group is concerned to spread Wittgenstein’s views.


On 22 April Wittgenstein writes a preface (Geleitwort) to the Wörterbuch für Volksschulen which he has been working on with his pupils since starting teaching, and which is intended to contribute to the improvement of spelling while giving special regard to the local dialect. This second of Wittgenstein’s books was published, minus the introduction, by Hölder-Pichler-Tempsky in Vienna in 1926.

Wordlist of his pupil Leopoldine Eichberge

(Left) Wordlist of his pupil Leopoldine Eichberge

In the summer, Wittgenstein undertakes the promised trip to England, visiting Keynes at his house in Sussex, seeing friends in Cambridge and meeting Eccles, a friend from his time in the Engineering Lab in Manchester.

On 26 July Frege dies. Wittgenstein’s letters to Frege were to be lost in the Second World War, and there remains preserved only a list of Wittgenstein’s letters which Frege had kept, with a brief indication of their content. Frege’s letters to Wittgenstein, along with about 400 other letters to Wittgenstein, came to light again through a happy circumstance in Vienna in 1988. They are at present to be found in the Brenner-Archiv of the University of Innsbruck.


Constant animosity from the parents of his pupils and doubts as to the success of his efforts make Wittgenstein think more and more often about retiring from teaching. In April an incident occurs: a pupil loses consciousness following a box on the ears. At Wittgenstein’s own request, the school authorities conduct a formal inquiry and, although he is acquitted of any form of culpability, he asks on 28 April to be released from the education service. He becomes an under-gardener in the monastery of the Brothers of Mercy in Hütteldorf. On 3 June his mother dies.

At the beginning of November 1925, Wittgenstein’s sister Margarethe had commissioned the architect and friend of Wittgenstein, Paul Engelmann, to design and build a large town house in Vienna. Wittgenstein shows lively interest in the project and in Engelmann’s plans. His comments and advice convince Engelmann that Wittgenstein can realise his sister’s intentions much better than he can himself, and he and Margarethe Stonborough ask Wittgenstein to participate as architect during the construction. After long consideration, Wittgenstein finally agrees and begins work in autumn on the house in the Kundmanngasse.

Sketch by Paul Engelmann

(Left) Sketch by Paul Engelmann

The House in Kundmanngasse

(Right)The House in Kundmanngasse


Schlick’s further attempt to visit Wittgenstein in Otterthal in April 1926 was also without success; Wittgenstein had given up teaching and left Otterthal. In February 1927 Wittgenstein’s sister, Margarethe Stonborough, finally arranges the first meeting between the two. After several further meetings with Schlick alone, Wittgenstein is also prepared to speak to other members of the Schlick circle. Besides Friedrich Waismann, though less regularly, Carnap, Feigl and Marie Kaspar-Feigl come to further meetings up to the end of 1928. It seems that in this period Wittgenstein speaks about philosophy only rarely; he is too occupied with his architectural work. No records of these discussions are known to exist.

Moritz Schlick

(Left) Moritz Schlick

A letter of Wittgenstein’s to Ramsey from 2 July contains for the first renewed discussion of logic at any length: TS 206, an Essay on Identity, which appeared in Wittgenstein and the Vienna Circle, Oxford 1979.

Whilst working on the house, Wittgenstein occupies himself sculpting, as he has done during the school holidays in the previous year. He is a frequent guest in the studio of his friend from POW days, the sculptor Michael Drobil. There he criticises one of Drobil’s works, and demonstrates his arguments by himself modelling a bust of a young girl in plaster of Paris.


In March Wittgenstein is persuaded by Waismann and Feigl to attend a lecture by the Dutch logician L. E. J. Brouwer in the Academy of Sciences. Brouwer’s ideas on the subject of Mathematics, Knowledge and Speech obviously make a great impression on him; he is aroused to indignation and feels himself challenged.

Work on the house in the Kundmanngasse is completed in the autumn. In a letter to Hermine Wittgenstein of 9.1.1932, Paul Engelmann describes collaborating with Ludwig Wittgenstein: Nevertheless ... I am satisfied by the thought of having had something to do with the creation of such beautiful things. Unfortunately more in a negative than a positive sense: before, I wanted something else, something of my own. Now that your brother’s work is to be seen in its final form, it is evident how inferior this thing of my own would have been to this better thing of his, which I then only poorly understood."

Wittgenstein decides to take a holiday in England but has to postpone the trip for reasons of health.


The River Cam, looking from Trinity towards Clare

(Right) The River Cam, looking from Trinity towards Clare

At the start of January Wittgenstein is again in Cambridge. He decides, as he writes to Schlick on 18 February, to remain here in Cambridge for a few terms and work on visual space and other things. With Ramsey’s assistance he concerns himself anew with the completion of his studies. The English translation of the Logisch-philosophische Abhandlung, the Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus published eight years earlier, is eventually accepted as his doctoral work. The viva voce examination is held at the start of June, with Moore and Russell as examiners. On 18 June Wittgenstein is awarded his doctoral degree from the University of Cambridge.

On 2 February he had begun work on a series of 18 manuscript volumes on which he was to work until 1940. They are large-format, hard-bound account ledgers each of about 300 pages. The first four volumes from the years 1929/30, manuscripts 105 to 108, I. Band Philosophische Bemerkungen, II. Band , III. Band Philosophische Betrachtungen and IV. Philosophische Bemerkungen constitute the contents of the first two volumes of the Wiener Ausgabe of Wittgenstein’s writings.

On 19 June Wittgenstein receives a grant from Trinity College, arranged by Moore, Russell and Ramsey. This one-off payment is to allow him to continue his research work in Cambridge. On 13 July he gives a lecture in Nottingham to the Joint Session of the Mind Association and the Aristotelian Society, the annual meeting of British philosophers. He speaks on Generality and Infinity in Mathematics. The original written contribution which he had submitted Some Remarks on Logical Form is published in the Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society for the year 1929, pages 162-171. In his view, the@ paper was poor and unusable.

Wittgenstein becomes friendly with the Italian economist Piero Sraffa, whom Keynes brought to King’s College after Sraffa had attracted Mussolini’s anger by an article in the Manchester Guardian and had had to leave Italy. Sraffa, a friend and comrade-in-arms of Gramsci, later made a Fellow of Trinity College, henceforth figures importantly in Wittgenstein’s conversations. Among other things, Sraffa regularly gives accounts of current affairs to Wittgenstein, who despite his interest refuses to read a newspaper or listen to the radio. Wittgenstein later says of his discussions with Sraffa that he felt like a tree robbed of its branches; and it is surely in this sense that Wittgenstein has Sraffa to thank for a spur to his growth. As he writes in his preface to the Philosophical Investigations: The tree, freed of its old wood, could sprout powerfully from the new.

Piero Sraffa. 1929

(Left) Piero Sraffa. 1929

The summer holidays, like almost all his long holidays, Wittgenstein spends in Austria. In October he starts Volume III, in December Volume IV, MS 107, III. Band Philosophische Betrachtungen; MS 108, IV. Philosophische Bemerkungen.

On 17 November Wittgenstein lectures on Ethics to the Heretics, a loose association of free-thinkers, whose president from 1911 to 1924 was C. K. Ogden: TS 207 (MS 139), Lecture on Ethics, in Philosophical Review, 74, (1965) pp. 3-12.

Wittgenstein is in Vienna over Christmas and meets Schlick and Waismann for the first time after a long while to report on the progress of his work so far. The records of these and their following discussions prepared by Waismann are published in Wittgenstein and the Vienna Circle, Oxford 1979.


Wittgenstein’s Pocket Diary

(Right) Wittgenstein’s Pocket Diary

On 18 January Frank Ramsey dies at the early age of 29. Wittgenstein’s friends arrange for him to begin teaching. His first teaching engagement is a 2-hour seminar on 20. January, the first of his Monday afternoon classes. There is also a discussion class on Thursdays at 5 on Problems of Language, Logic and Mathematics. Wittgenstein teaches on the same theme, announced as Philosophy in Cambridge University Reporter, the official lecture handbook, for the rest of the academic year 1929/30, in the Lent and Easter terms, and in the following academic year 1930/31 in the Michaelmas, Lent and Easter Terms . He again regularly attends sessions of the Moral Science Club, whose chairman is still G. E. Moore. He gives a short paper there on Evidence for the Existence of Other Minds.

In March and April, Wittgenstein works in Vienna on a synopsis of his manuscripts to date, typescript 208. In mid-March he discusses the text with Russell, visiting him for the purpose at Beacon Hill School, which Russell and Dora Black had founded at Telegraph House near Harting in West Sussex. After preparing a revision of typescript 208, the Philosophische Bemerkungen, TS 209, he again spends a day-and-a-half with Russell at the end of April, this time in Russell’s house in Penzance in Cornwall, where the Russells are spending their Easter holidays. On the basis of this work, Wittgenstein applies for a Fellowship at Trinity College. Typescript 208 and the revision of it, TS 209, published posthumously as Philosophical Remarks, Oxford 1964, and the synopsis of the first part of volume IV, TS 210, are all produced in the course of the spring and summer holidays.

The college gives the task of evaluating Wittgenstein’s work to Bertrand Russell and the mathematicians J. E. Littlewood and G. H. Hardy. Russell’s opinion, presented to the responsible College committee, is reproduced in Russell’s autobiography: The theories contained in the work of Wittgenstein are novel, very original and indubitably important. Whether they are true, I do not know. As a logician who likes simplicity, I should wish to think that they are not, but from what I have read of them I am quite sure that he should have an opportunity to work them out, since when completed they may easily prove to constitute a whole new philosophy. (The Autobiograpy of Bertrand Russell, Band II, London 1968, p. 200) Following this, on 5 December, Wittgenstein is elected Research Fellow for five years by the Council of Trinity College and moves into his old rooms in Whewells Court which he had occupied as a student before the war.

G. H. Hardy and J. E. Littlewood in Trinity College

(Left) G. H. Hardy and J. E. Littlewood in Trinity College

On 19 June, during his summer holidays in Vienna, Wittgenstein dictates his views on a series of mathematical topics, on which Waismann then gives a lecture entitled The Nature of Mathematics Wittgenstein’s view in Königsberg at the 2nd Conference on the Epistemology of the Exact Sciences. However, the presentation of Gödel’s now-famous theorem turns out to be the salient event at the conference, and Wittgenstein’s ideas make no impact. On 11 August he begins the fifth volume: MS 109, Bemerkungen V. and on 10 December the sixth: MS 110, VI. Philosophische Bemerkungen.

Kurt Gödel

(Right) Kurt Gödel

He spends the Christmas holidays as always with the family in the Alleegasse in Vienna.


As in previous years, Wittgenstein teaches in Clare College, now as a Research Fellow, in rooms placed at his disposal by the Explorer Raymond E. Priestley. On Mondays he has the 2-hour seminar, on Fridays the discussion class.

On 7 July he begins Volume VII, on 5 October Volume VIII, and on 28 November Volume IX: MS 111, VII. Bemerkungen zur Philosophie, MS 112, VIII. Bemerkungen zur Philosophischen Grammatik, MS 113, IX. Philosophische Grammatik.

Wittgenstein’s preliminary work for these and the following volumes have also been preserved in small pocket notebooks (MSS 153a, 153b, 154 and 155). Wittgenstein constantly destroyed most of his sketches and preliminary work, including for example the notebooks belonging to the manuscript volumes I to V.

During the summer holidays in Austria, mostly at the Hochreith, he works on revising his manuscripts and begins on a summary of volumes V to X, a typescript of 771 pages (TS 211) which he completes in the summer of 1932. Pages 1 to 12 in Remarks on Frazers Golden Bough, edited by Rush Rhees and published by Brynmill Press, Retford in 1979, come from this typescript and are Wittgenstein’s re-workings of corresponding passages from manuscript volume VIII.

In the autumn he takes a holiday in Norway with his friends Gilbert Pattison and Marguerite Respinger. It is at this time that he presumably begins working on the volume Pilosophische Bemerkungen XII, MS 116, on which he continues writing until well after May 1945. He had bought the large writing book, with 576 pages, in Bergen in Norway. The only date it contains, May 1945 , is around the middle of the volume, on page 316.

Wittgenstein rowing from Skjolden to his house

(Left) Wittgenstein rowing from Skjolden to his house

Wittgenstein asks Moore for leave from his official teaching engagements for the coming academic year (1931/32), in order to be able to concentrate completely on his own work. He is prepared, however, to hold private unpaid discussion classes for interested students in his rooms in Whewells Court, always on Fridays from 5 to 7 pm.

Tensions arise in the Moral Science Club. Wittgenstein is accused of monopolizing discussions, and he withdraws from active participation for the next four years.


From 27 May until 5 June Wittgenstein is writing Part I of Volume X: MS 114 (I), X. Philosophische Grammatik. In the summer holidays he finishes work on typescript 211 and immediately begins to revise it, along with typescripts 208 and 210. He cuts the typescripts up and arranges selected extracts with additions and alterations into a collection of paper cuttings: TS 212.

In the same year he begins the notebooks MSS 156a and 156b, which he writes in until 1934. In October, at the start of the Michaelmas term of the academic year 1932/33, he resumes regular teaching, with lectures on Language, Logic and Mathematics, announced as always as Philosophy in the Cambridge University Reporter.


On 27 May Wittgenstein defends himself in an open letter in the journal Mind, edited at that time by G. E. Moore, against the inaccurate and ill-informed dissemination of his ideas. In the following academic year, 1933/34, he dictates his lectures to his friend and pupil Francis Skinner and to other close friends among his students. The typescript is duplicated, and Wittgenstein distributes the few copies, known today by the title Blue Book, among friends and students (TS 307, The Blue Book, Oxford 1958)

Ludwig Wittgenstein with Francis Skinner in Cambridge.

(Left) Ludwig Wittgenstein with Francis Skinner in Cambridge.

During the summer holidays Wittgenstein travels with Moritz Schlick to Italy. At the Hochreith he dictates the so-called Big Typescript TS 213, based on the collection of cuttings TS 212, as well as on TSS 214-218.

Wittgenstein is occupied with a complicated reworking and revision of the first part of this big typescript (TS 213) until 1934: this involves work on the typescript itself, notebooks 156a and 156b, exercise books C 1, C 2 and C 3 : MSS 145, 146 and 147, Part II of Volume X and Part I of Volume XI: MS 114 (II), Umarbeitung./ Zweite Umarbeitung im großem Format, and MS 115 (I), Philosophische Bemerkungen XI. Fortsetzung von Band X., and MS 140, the so-called Große Format.

This complex revision, which does not exist as a separate manuscript in its own right but only as a sort of virtual manuscript in the form of references linking the manuscripts named above, was published as Part 1 of Die Philosophische Grammatik, Oxford 1969. The Appendix and the second part of the Philosophische Grammatik, Oxford 1969, derive from the second part of the so-called “Big Typescript", which Wittgenstein did not revise.


During the Easter holidays in Vienna Wittgenstein decides to undertake collaborative work with Waismann. A division of labour is agreed, and during their conversation Wittgenstein sketches the opening of the book. As early as the next meeting difficulties become apparent, which Waismann describes thus: (Wittgenstein) has the marvellous gift of always seeing everything as if for the first time. But I think it’s obvious how difficult any collaboration is, since he always follows the inspiration of the moment and demolishes what he has previously planned.

(Wittgenstein and the Vienna Circle)

The project was soon abandoned by Wittgenstein, and the Master-apprentice relationship with Waismann is also to end two years later with the death of Schlick.

Friedrich Waismann, Moritz Schlick’s Assistant

(Left) Friedrich Waismann, Moritz Schlick’s Assistant

On 4 June Wittgenstein starts notebook MS 157a. In September he visits his friend and pupil, the psychiatrist Maurice Drury, in Ireland.

During the academic year 1934/35 he gives only one course and instead dictates the so-called Brown Book in English for two hours four days a week to his student Alice Ambrose and his friend and student Francis Skinner (TS 308, The Brown Book, Oxford 1958).

Alice Ambrose

(Right) Alice Ambrose

By contrast with the Blue Book, there were originally only three typed copies of the Brown Book, and their illegal dissemination occurred totally against Wittgenstein’s wishes. His intention was rather to revise this material for separate publication. In the first drafts for the Brown Book, in the manuscript volume C 4 , MS 148, written like almost all Wittgenstein’s manuscripts in German, is to be found the beginnings of the corpus of the Philosophische Untersuchungen. About a year after dictating the Brown Book, Wittgenstein starts to set down in Part 2 of Volume XI, MS 115 (II) Philosophische Untersuchungen. Versuch einer Umarbeitung, a German version of the Brown Book, published as Eine Philosophische Betrachtung, in Schriften 5, 117-237, Frankfurt 1970.

During the summer holidays Wittgenstein dictates to Friedrich Waismann for Moritz Schlick the summary of his re-working of the first part of the so-called Big Typescript. These re-workings exist in a series of manuscripts connected by various cross-references as a kind of latent manuscript (see the stemma in IV.2).

Except for the academic year 1934/35, G. E. Moore regularly attended Wittgenstein’s teaching sessions, later publishing his lecture notes in Mind as Wittgenstein’s lectures in 1930-33 (Parts 1 and 2 in Mind 63, pp. 1-15 and 289-315; Part 3 in Mind 64, pp. 1-27 and 264). Wittgenstein had dictated the Blue Book to his students Alice Ambrose, H. M. S. Coxeter, R. Goodstein, Helen Knight, Margaret Masterman and Francis Skinner. Besides Moore’s, there are lecture notes by Maurice O’Connor Drury and Francis Skinner from this period.


The expiry of his five-year Research Fellowship at Trinity College faces Wittgenstein once more with the problem of loss of career. Accordingly he plans a journey to the Soviet Union, to find out whether he @can find a suitable post there .Wittgenstein’s constant quest for the right career was not, as it is often misunderstood, a flight from himself. Rather, it was a search for the right place, a being at one with himself: Return him [Man] to his rightful element and everything will unfold and appear as healthy. (MS 125)

Since 1933/34 he has been taking lessons in Russian from the philosopher Fanja Pascal, initially with Francis Skinner. In June he asks Keynes for an introduction to the Soviet ambassador in London, Ivan M. Maiski. He seeks contacts in two places above all, at the Northern Institute in Leningrad and the Institute for National Minorities in Moscow, writing to Keynes on 6 July: These Institutes, as I am told, deal with people who want to go to the ‘colonies’ the newly colonized parts at the periphery of the U. S. S. R. (Letters to Russell, Keynes and Moore)

Fanja Pascal in Trinity College. Photographed by Ludwig Wittgenstein

(Left) Fanja Pascal in Trinity College. Photographed by Ludwig Wittgenstein

On 12 September Wittgenstein arrives in Leningrad. There he meets the author and educator Guryevich at the Northern Institute, then an autonomous faculty of Leningrad University. On the evening of the following day he travels on to Moscow, arriving there on the morning of the 14th. Here he has contacts with various western Europeans and Americans, including the correspondent of the Daily Worker, Pat Sloane. Most of his discussions, however, are with scientists, for example the young mathematician Yanovskaya and the philosopher Yushevich from Moscow University, who are both close to so-called Mach Marxism and the Vienna Circle. He is invited by the philosopher Tatiana Nikolayeva Gornstein, a member of the Soviet Academy of Sciences, to teach philosophy at Leningrad University. He travels to Kazakhstan, where he is offered a chair at the famous university where Tolstoy once studied. On 1 October he is back in Cambridge. The trip was shorter than planned, and it appears that he has given up the idea of settling in Russia.

His friend Gilbert Pattison, who picked him up from the ship on his return, recalls that Wittgenstein’s view was that he could not live there himself: @One could live there, but only if one kept in mind the whole time that one could never speak one’s mind. ... It is as though one were to spend the rest of one’s life in an army, any army, and that is a rather difficult thing for people who are educated. (Interview with Pattison)

Postcard from Moscow to Gilbert Pattison

(Left) Postcard from Moscow to Gilbert Pattison

The last academic year of Wittgenstein’s fellowship starts on 8 October. He holds the first of his series of seminars on the Philosophy of Psychology, as preliminary to the Philosophy of Mathematics and the Foundations of Mathematics, on 11 October in his rooms at Whewells Court. Among his students are Rush Rhees, G. H. von Wright, Norman Malcolm, A. M. Turing, John Wisdom, D. A. T. Gasking, G. A. Paul, R. G. Bosanquet, Casimir Lewy, Alistair Watson, Max Black, Richard Braithwaite, M. Cornforth, A. C. Ewing, D. H. Guest, T. W. Hutchinson, A. D. Jones, H. P. D. Lee, Denis Lloyd, Margaret McDonald, A. R. M. Murray, Theodore Redpath, A. Shillinglaw and J. O. Wisdom.

Members of the Cambridge University Moral Science Club.

(Right) Members of the Cambridge University Moral Science Club. G. E. Moore. is in the front row holding the umbrella

In the same year he begins MSS 149, 150 and 181, Privacy of Sense Data, on which he is to work until 1936. The lecture preparation notes contained in the manuscripts are mostly written in English. The Notes for the Lectures on Private Experience and Sense Data, edited by Rush Rhees and published in Philosophical Review, are a selection from MSS 148, 149, 151 and 181.

Wittgenstein again spends Christmas with his family in Vienna.


Wittgenstein’s research fellowship expires at the end of the Easter term, after which he is without any regular income. He visits his friend Drury in Dublin for a few days, entertaining the idea of studying medicine and sharing a psychiatric practice with Drury. In Dublin he learns of Schlick’s murder.

In July Wittgenstein tours Brittany by car with Gilbert Pattison before going off for a lengthy stay in Norway. He leaves Cambridge on 13 August, travelling via London, Stavanger, Bergen and Laerdal to Skjolden, where he arrives on 18 August. The next day he travels for a few days to Bergen and on 27 August moves into his house.

His Friend Gilbert Pattison. Photographed by Ludwig Wittgenstein.

(Left) His Friend Gilbert Pattison. Photographed by Ludwig Wittgenstein

Photo by Gilbert Pattison during the trip to France, July 1936

(Right) Photo by Gilbert Pattison during the trip to France, July 1936

Whilst still in Cambridge he had written the exercise books C 7 and C 8, MSS 151 and 152. Also in Cambridge he writes MS 166, Notes for the Philosophical Lecture.

In Norway Wittgenstein begins a revision of the Brown Book in part 2 of Volume XI, MS 115 (II) Philosophische Untersuchungen. Versuch einer Umarbeitung, which he abandons with the remark: This whole ‘Attempt at a Reworking’ is worthless from page 118 up to here. There follows a further reworking on loose leaf, MS 141, and on 5 November he notes in his pocket diary: New reworking begun, possibly referring here to the manuscript volume Philosophische Untersuchungen, MS 142, which cannot now be found, which he had given as a present to his sister Margarethe Stonborough, remarking that it was a poor gift. On the 8 December he leaves Skjolden and travels to Vienna for a lengthy stay. Wittgenstein presumably wrote MS 143, which was published in the Remarks on Frazer’s Golden Bough, in the same year.


Wittgenstein is in Cambridge for several weeks from the beginning of January, returning to Skjolden at the end of the month. On 9 February he makes his last entry in notebook MS 157a, starting notebook MS 157b on the 27th.

At the beginning of May he is again with the family in Vienna, whence he leaves for Cambridge, planning a stay of two weeks but extending it to 9 August. There he dictates a revision of the Philosophische Untersuchungen , TS 220, which also bears the title Philosophische Untersuchungen.

On 10 August he travels via London, Bergen and Mjömna back to Skjolden, arriving there on 16 August. He has a fear of being alone and at first moves into the house of his friend Anna Rebni. From the 25th he is living once more in his own house. On 13 August, while still aboard ship on his way to Norway, he begins Volume XIV; on 11 September he starts on Volume XIII, on 24 September Volume XV, and on 19 November Volume XVI, which he continues writing in until 26 April 1938: MS 118, Philosophische Bemerkungen XIV; MS 117, Philosophische Bemerkungen XIII.; MS 119, XV.; MS 120, XVI.

Wittgenstein’s House in Norway

(Left) Wittgenstein’s House in Norway

Volume XIII is published in part, along with comments from MS 121, as Part II of Remarks on the foundations of Mathematics, Oxford 1956. The texts on Ursache und Wirkung: Intuitives Erfassen, (Cause and Effect: Intuitive Understanding), which appeared in Philosophia, 6 (1976), 391-408, were taken from volume XV by the editor Rush Rhees.

His friends Francis Skinner, Marguerite Respinger and Ludwig Hänsel visit Wittgenstein at this time which is so extremely productive and yet a difficult one for him in personal terms.

Marguerite Respinger in Skjolden

(Right) Marguerite Respinger in Skjolden. Photographed by Ludwig Wittgenstein

In the middle of December Wittgenstein leaves Skjolden and returns to his family in Vienna.


In the first weeks of January Wittgenstein is still in Vienna. At the start of the Lent term he is only briefly in Cambridge; he does not begin the series of seminars which has been announced on Philosophy and Philosophical Foundations of Mathematics until the Easter term. On 8 February he travels to Dublin for a lengthy stay. There, on 12 March, he hears from Drury about the Anschluss, which he could hardly have believed possible. He returns immediately to Cambridge, where he meets Piero Sraffa to have his views on the new state of affairs. Sraffa writes to him on 14 March, Before trying to discuss [the matter], probably in a confused way, I want to give a clear answer to your question. If you say it is of ‘vital’ importance’ for you to be able to leave Austria and return to England, there is no doubt - ‘you must not go to Vienna’.

Piero Sraffa in Cambridge. Taken by a street photographer

(Left) Piero Sraffa in Cambridge. Taken by a street photographer

The situation in central Europe becomes ever more threatening, the enforced convergence of Austria with Nazi-Germany ever more apparent. Wittgenstein decides to change his nationality, and turns to his friends Sraffa and Keynes for advice. At first he is unsure whether to apply for British or Irish citizenship, but decides on practical considerations for the British. In the same connection, he also applies for a position in the University of Cambridge. Until his Fellowship at Trinity College expired, he had previously taught in the University of Cambridge as a fellow of the college.

Following the German invasion of Austria, Wittgenstein’s sisters and other members of the family living in there find themselves in great danger because of their Jewish descent.

In April Wittgenstein starts on the seventeenth volume: MS 121 Philosophische Bemerkungen XVII. At the same time he continues writing on Volume XIII and notebooks MSS 158 and 159. He revises the manuscript volumes XIII to XVI, the second half of the Philosophische Untersuchungen and the notebook 162a in the typescript 221, which he then revises again in typescripts TSS 222, 223 and 224, since published almost complete as part I of the Remarks on the foundations of Mathematics, Oxford 1956. In August he writes the preface (TS 225) to an earlier version of the Philosophische Untersuchungen, known as the Pre-war version (TS 220).

With the help of his friends Rush Rhees and Yorick Smythies, Wittgenstein begins an English translation of the manuscript of the Untersuchungen and makes some initial attempts to arrange publication. According to an entry in its records on 30 September, Cambridge University Press is at first willing to publish the book under the title Philosophical Remarks. Difficulties with translating the manuscript eventually lead Wittgenstein to abandon thoughts of publication.

In October the Faculty of Moral Science of the University of Cambridge makes Wittgenstein a full member. With Moore about to become an emeritus professor, Wittgenstein applies for the chair which will be becoming vacant.

Ludwig Wittgenstein in the Fellows’ Garden, Trinity College. Photo by Norman Malcom

(Left) Ludwig Wittgenstein in the Fellows’ Garden, Trinity College. Photo by Norman Malcom


On 6 January he begins notebook 162a. On 11 February the University of Cambridge elects Wittgenstein as Moore’s successor as Professor of Philosophy. Wittgenstein, unsure that he would be appointed, is amazed, especially at the reason given by Professor Broad, a fellow of Trinity College, who had something of a personal antipathy towards him: To refuse the chair to Wittgenstein would be like refusing Einstein a chair of Physics. (Drury, in: Recollections of Wittgenstein, Oxford 1981)

On 14 April Wittgenstein gets his British citizenship, and on 2 June his new passport. On 22 June he travels to Vienna, from there to Berlin on 5 July, and on 12 July via England to New York, where he conducts various negotiations with the relevant authorities and with the directors of the family’s holdings about the Wittgenstein family assets. A considerable part of the enormous currency assets is converted to Reichsmarks, following which the “Reichsstelle für Sippenforschung” (Reich Office for Research into Ancestry), ... in accordance with the directive of the Minister of the Interior for the Reich dated 29.8.1939 ...., based on an order of the Führer and Reichs Chancellor” has new documents of ancestry made out, in which the common grandfather, Hermann Christian Wittgenstein, is eventually declared to be an ancestor of German blood.

In mid-August Wittgenstein returns to Cambridge. On his being made professor, his fellowship at Trinity is renewed. He moves once more into his old rooms in Whewells Court, which he had had to give up on expiry of his research fellowship. After his fellowship ran out in 1936 and his return from Norway at the end of 1937, he had shared with Francis Skinner a small flat above a greengrocer’s shop in East Road in Cambridge.

View from Wittgenstein’s Study of Whewell«s Court, Trinity College

(Left) View from Wittgenstein’s Study of Whewell«s Court, Trinity College

On 16 October Wittgenstein begins the 18th volume, MS 122, Philosophische Bemerkungen XVIII, which he continues in volume XIII on 3 February 1940. Volume XVIII is published in part, interspersed with comments from manuscript volume XIII, as part 3 of the Remarks on the foundations of Mathematics, Oxford 1956.

At the start of the academic year 1939/40, on 1 October, Wittgenstein takes over the chair with a series of seminars on the Philosophische Untersuchungen.


Since becoming professor, Wittgenstein has been active once more in the sessions of the Moral Science Club, whose chairmanship continues to be held by Moore until 1944. He gives a seminar paper there on 2 February, and on 19 February a lecture to the Mathematical Society.

From 10 April to 21 August Wittgenstein is writing in the notebook MS 162b and from 25 September to 23 November in the volume Philosophische Bemerkungen, MS 123.

In 1940/41 Wittgenstein holds seminars on Philosophy and on problems connected with the Philosophische Untersuchungen, as well as private discussions on aesthetics: Prof. Wittgenstein will be at home to his students on Sundays at 5 p.m. in his room in Trinity College. (from the teaching calendar, Cambridge University Reporter)


Wittgenstein begins the notebooks MSS 164 and 165, which he uses until about 1944.

He finishes the manuscript volume MS 123 on 6 June, and then writes in volume 124 until 4 July, and later in notebook 163.

On 11 October his friend Francis Skinner dies of poliomyelitis.

Wittgenstein’s Pocket Diary

(Left) Wittgenstein’s Pocket Diary

Page from Wittgenstein’s Photoalbum, Francis Skinner, Family at Christmas Dinner in Alleegasse

(Right) Page from Wittgenstein’s Photoalbum, Francis Skinner, Family at Christmas Dinner in Alleegasse

In the early years of the war, Wittgenstein was often unhappy at not being able to find any work besides his academic activity and at being obliged to be a non-participant observer of the war. At the invitation of John Ryle, the brother of Gilbert Ryle, who had previously been Regius Professor of Physics at Cambridge, Wittgenstein does voluntary work from November at Guy’s Hospital in London, working first as an orderly with responsibility for taking drugs to the wards (where, however, as John Ryle’s wife relates, he advises the patients not to take them). Later on he works as a laboratory assistant, mixing ointments for dermatology. Whilst working in the hospital he becomes friendly with Roy Fouracre, a simple man of very humble origins, who arrives as a soldier from the Far East. Wittgenstein remains closely bound to him in friendship to the end of his life.

Wittgenstein’s Recipe Book for the Preparation of Medicines and Salves

(Left) Wittgenstein’s Recipe Book for the Preparation of Medicines and Salves

Although listed in the lecture calendar, from now on he takes only private courses, on Saturday afternoons and often on Sunday mornings as well, mostly on the Foundations of Mathematics.

The first entry in pocket notebook MS 125 is from 28 December. This manuscript, interspersed with comments from MSS 126 and 127, is published in part as part IV of the Remarks on the foundations of Mathematics, Oxford 1956.


His usual holidays in Austria are no longer possible, so he visits his friend Rush Rhees in Swansea, where he can concentrate on his work and at the same time recover from a gall-stone operation at Guy’s Hospital.

On 7 July he returns to his work at Guy’s Hospital in London. In October he completes MS 125 and starts on a new manuscript on Mathematics and Logic, MS 126

Among his students is the mathematician Georg Kreisel, whom Wittgenstein regards as competent to continue his work on the Foundations of Mathematics. Wittgenstein has a series of conversations with Kreisel at the time on Hardy’s Course of Pure Mathematics, a classic introduction to differential and integral calculus then widely disseminated in British universities. MSS 126 and 127 are based on Wittgenstein’s marginal comments in Hardy’s book which date from that time.


On 6 January Wittgenstein continues his work in MS 126 in volume MS 127 F. Mathematik und Logik. The “F” refers to the alphabetic indexing of a series of manuscripts which, at least in terms of integrity of indexing, is incomplete. Both manuscripts, MSS 126 and 127, are published in part as part V of the Remarks on the foundations of Mathematics, Oxford 1956.

At Guy’s Hospital Wittgenstein gets to know the doctor R. T. Grant through his colleague Basil Reeve and becomes very involved in his work on wound shock therapy. The introduction to the final report of the research published by Reeve and Grant on wound shock therapy (Observations on the General Effects of Injury in Man) is critical of the use of the concept of “wound shock” in a way strongly reminiscent of Wittgenstein’s later philosophical work: Psychological words are similar to those which pass over from everyday language into medical language. (’Shock’), Remarks on the Philosophy of Psychology, Oxford 1980 The way of thinking which underlies the report was, as Reeve and Grant themselves remark, influenced by Wittgenstein. Reeve recalls that while the research report was being drafted, Wittgenstein proposes that the word shock should be printed upside down so as to indicate its unsuitability for the diagnosis of the sequelae of injury.

When Grant’s research group is transferred to Newcastle in April, Wittgenstein decides to join them as a laboratory assistant. In a reference, Grant writes of Wittgenstein’s contribution to their work, .... he has a keenly critical mind and in discussions of medical and physiological problems has proved a most helpful and stimulating colleague. He has undertaken observations on respiratory variations of blood pressure in man, devising his own experiments and apparatus. The results of his work so far are at variance with commonly accepted views and of considerable interest. (Nicolas Badusen, Lectures and Essays, 1963).

Wittgenstein now travels only rarely to Cambridge from Newcastle. He undertakes no more formal teaching, and gives up his rooms in Trinity College. In Newcastle he writes the exercise books MSS 179, 180a and 180b. He spends the holidays again with Rush Rhees in Swansea, where he revises the Philosophische Untersuchungen again, TS 239.

A year previously, with a friend, the Russian philologist Nicholas Bachtin, Wittgenstein had again read the Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus. At that time he had decided to publish the Philosophical Investigations together with the Logisch-philosophische Abhandlung @It occurred to me suddenly that I should publish those old ideas along with the new ones, that the latter could only be properly illuminated by being set in opposition to and against the background of my former way of thinking. Wittgenstein chooses a new title for the planned book: Philosophische Untersuchungen der Logisch-Philosophishen Abhandlung entgegengestellt (Philosophical Investigations counterpoised with the Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus), and replaces the motto from Hertz’s Principles of Mechanics with a new one taken from Johann Nestroy which binds the two works together: It is in the nature of all progress that it looks much greater than it really is.

Nicholas Bachtin

(Left) Nicholas Bachtin

In September he tries for a second time to get the Cambridge University Press to publish the work. The publishers agree to Wittgenstein’s wish to publish the Investigations together with the Tractatus, and try to arrange for a publication under licence by the publishers of the Tractatus, Routledge and Kegan Paul. Permission is first granted, but is later revoked.


The research team of Grant and Reeve leaves Newcastle in February 1944 to continue their studies in Italy on war-wounded in the wake of the breakthrough of the Allied forces. Wittgenstein stays on several weeks in Newcastle under Grant’s successor, Dr. Bywaters, but is then ordered to return to Cambridge. As Bywaters writes to his superiors: he has been called back to his Cambridge Chair to write a treatise on Philosophy, which has been in the air for the last year or so, but they now want on paper. On 27 February he is in Cambridge once more, where he finishes work on manuscript 127 by 4 March. He then goes to Swansea to carry on working on his book.

He stays from March until September with Rush Rhees in Swansea, and there completes work on manuscript 124. He writes the manuscript volumes MS 128 - with the title for his new book on the last page: Philos. Untersuchungen der Log. Phil. Abh. entgegengestellt. - and MS 129. While still in Swansea he begins the typescript 227 of the Philosophische Untersuchungen, which, together with the additions and alterations that Wittgenstein continues to work on until 1949/50, was published as Philosophical Investigations, Oxford 1953. The original typescript of the final version of Wittgenstein’s Philosophische Untersuchungen can in the meantime no longer be found.

Rush Rhees

(Left) Rush Rhees

Manuscript Volume MS 128

(Right) Manuscript Volume MS 128

In connection with typescript 227, on a visit to Cambridge he dictates typescript 242, an intermediate version of the Philosophische Untersuchungen, and also typescript 241, based on the manuscript volume MS 129, which contains three variants of the preface to the Philosophische Untersuchungen..

In October, at the start of the academic year 1944/45, Wittgenstein is again in Cambridge, in his old rooms in Whewells Court. He resumes teaching, with four hours of seminars, two sessions per week, each of two hours, on problems connected with the Philosophische Untersuchungen, writing in MS 129: What I am trying to teach today is the transition from what is not obviously nonsense to what obviously is. In November, Moore gives up the chair of the Moral Science Club which he had occupied since 1912, Wittgenstein becoming his successor.

Among Wittgenstein’s new students are G. E. M. Anscombe, Timothy Moore (G. E. Moore’s son), Iris Murdoch, Stephan Toulmin, Peter Geach, W. Hijab, C. Jackson, C. A. Mace, J. N. Findlay, K. Madison, W. Mays, P. Munz, E. O’Doherty, S. Plaister, Rose Rand, K. Shah, R. Thouless and J. P. Stern.


Wittgenstein continues working on the Philosophische Untersuchungen, on manuscript 182, which contains comments supplementing the typescript of the Philosophische Untersuchungen of 1944/45 of the version then published. He writes a new preface to the Untersuchungen (TS 243 and the typescript 228, Bemerkungen I) and begins typescript 229, published as Remarks on the Philosophy of Psychology, Oxford 1980, as well as typescript 230 (Bemerkungen II), on which he works until 1947.

Wittgenstein spends his holidays in Swansea again, where he continues working on manuscript volume XII. In the academic year 1945/46 he holds 2-hour seminars twice weekly on the Philosophy of Psychology.


Wittgenstein writes the manuscript volumes MSS 130, 131 and 132, and starts the volume MS 133.

He continues working on typescript 229 and spends most of his holidays in Swansea as before.

In the following academic year he gives two series of seminars, one on the Foundations of Mathematics and one on the Philosophy of Psychology. In mid-November he lectures to the Moral Science Club, as he writes to Moore on 14 November, .... roughly, on what I believe philosophy is, or what the method of philosophy is ... (Letters to Russell, Keynes and Moore)


On 28 February Wittgenstein completes the manuscript volume MS 133. There follow volumes MSS 134 and 135.

Based on volumes MSS 135, 136 and 137, Wittgenstein starts to dictate in Cambridge to the young Austrian emigrant Gitta Deutsch the typescript 232, published in the second volume of the Remarks on the Philosophy of Psychology, Oxford 1980 and presumably also begins at this time the notebooks MSS 167 and 168.

Wittgenstein spends the summer in Swansea, where he visits his friend Ben Richards. He takes sabbatical leave the following academic year in order to be able to concentrate totally on his work. In October Wittgenstein decides to give up the professorship, and on 31 December officially lays down his office.

Ben Richards. Photographed by Ludwig Wittgenstein

(Right) Ben Richards. Photographed by Ludwig Wittgenstein

Ludwig Wittgenstein. Photographed by Ben Richards in Swansea

(Left) Ludwig Wittgenstein. Photographed by Ben Richards in Swansea

In the winter Wittgenstein travels to Dublin, where his friend Drury has arranged for him to stay at Ross’s Hotel. There he makes his first entries in Band Q, MS 136.

Wittgenstein did not number the sixteen manuscript volumes from the period 1940 to 1949, as he had with the previous volumes I to XVIII. The surviving volume designations Q, R, and S and the designation F in MS 127 from the year 1943 point, however, to a similar structure, which it has not yet been possible to reconstruct.


Wittgenstein stays on in Ireland, first of all in a farmhouse in Red Cross, in County Wicklow, where he begins the manuscript volume MS 137, Band ‘R’.

Kilpatrick House in Wicklow, Ireland

(Left) Kilpatrick House in Wicklow, Ireland

Soon, however, the house is too noisy for him, and he moves to Rosro, to Drury’s lonely holiday cottage on the west coast of Ireland, in Connemara. He stays there several months and continues work on Band ‘R’. Tommy Mulkerrins, a servant of the Drurys, whom Maurice Drury is supposed to have told that Wittgenstein was suffering from a nervous breakdown, looks after him.

In the autumn Wittgenstein travels to Austria for the first time since the end of the war. His sister Hermine is ill with cancer.

In October he travels back to Cambridge, where in three weeks he revises the manuscript volumes MSS 135, 136 and 137 and continues dictating typescript 232. Having travelled back to Ireland, where he lives again in Ross’s Hotel, he continues his work on Band ‘R’. In December, Rush Rhees visits him. Wittgenstein draws up his first will, making, as he writes to Moore on 31 December, Rhees and Burnaby of Trinity his executors.


Still in Ross’s Hotel. Wittgenstein completes Band ‘R’, noting 15 January as the date on which he changes to manuscript volume MS 138. This volume, together with the second half of volume R, is in large part published as Last Writings on the Philosophy of Psychology, Oxford 1982.

In April Wittgenstein travels to Vienna, where his sister Hermine is dying. In May he is briefly in Dublin again, and in June in Cambridge as the guest of his friend Georg Henrik von Wright, his successor in the chair of Philosophy.

In July and August Wittgenstein undertakes a journey to America, to his friend and pupil Norman Malcolm in Ithaca in New York State. His health is very poor. He has not been able to work properly since March. In Ithaca he has to go into hospital, and he is afraid, not of illness or death, but that an operation will prevent him from returning to Europe: I don’t want to die in America. I am a European -I want to die in Europe, ... What a fool I was to come. (Norman Malcolm, A Memoir, Oxford 1984) The hospital’s diagnosis gives no grounds for serious anxiety, and he is able to return to England in October. There he again seeks medical attention, and his doctor, Dr. Edward Bevan, diagnoses cancer. Wittgenstein continues his work with MS 144, which is largely a copy and revision of the second part of the Philosophische Untersuchungen, and with notebooks MS 169, 170 and 171, and he continues dictating typescript 234, the last version of so-called part II of the Philosophische Untersuchungen. This typescript was unfortunately lost, along with that of part I of the work, when the Philosophical Investigations was being type-set in 1953.

In December Wittgenstein travels to his family in Vienna, staying there until the end of March.


At the beginning of April, Wittgenstein returns to Cambridge, again as the guest of G. H. von Wright. He then goes briefly to London, to his friend Rush Rhees. In April he moves to Oxford, to his pupil Elizabeth Anscombe. At this time he is working on the notebooks MSS 172, 173, 174, and starts on 23 September with MS 175.

In the autumn he travels with his young friend Ben Richards to Norway for five weeks, with the intention of settling there permanently. On 13 November, however, in view of his illness, he takes leave of Norway for good, having years previously given his cabin in Skjolden to a friend, Arne Bolstad.

The House in Norway

(Left) The House in Norway

On 27 November he moves into the house of Dr. Bevan, his doctor in Cambridge, whom he got to know through his friend Drury.

He spends Christmas again with his family in the Alleegasse.


On 29 January Wittgenstein makes a new will in Oxford. He makes Rush Rhees his executor and his friends Rush Rhees, G. E. M. Anscombe and G. H. von Wright adminsitrators of his literary estate.

On 8 February Wittgenstein is back in Cambridge, with Dr. Bevan, continuing his work on MS 175, and starting MS 176 on 21 March. The manuscripts 172 to 177 are for the most part published. Part I of Remarks on Colours, Oxford 1977, comes from manuscript 176, Part II from MS 172, and Part III from MS 173. In the volume On Certainty, Oxford 1970, comments 1 to 65 come from MS 173, 66 to 192 from MS 174, 193 to 299 from MS 173 and 300 to 676 from the MSS 176 and 177.

On 25 April Wittgenstein begins work on the last manuscript, MS 177. The last entry is dated 27 April:

If someone believes that he has flown from America to England in the last few days, then, I believe, he cannot be making a mistake.

And just the same if someone says that he is at this moment sitting at a table and writing.

But even if in such cases I can’t be mistaken, isn’t it possible that I am drugged?” If I am and if the drug has taken away my consciousness, then I am not now really talking and thinking. I cannot seriously suppose that I am at this moment dreaming. Someone who, dreaming, says “I am dreaming", even if he speaks audibly in doing so, is no more right than if he said in his dream “it is raining", while it was in fact raining. Even if his dream were actually connected with the noise of the rain.

The Last Manuscript-Entry

(Left) The Last Manuscript-Entry

On the evening of 28 April, Wittgenstein loses consciousness. He dies the following morning, 29 April 1951.

The numbering of the manuscripts follows that of the papers left by Wittgenstein in: G. H. von Wright, The Wittgenstein Papers., 1969.