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Charles Sanders Peirce and Coimbra

Robert Martins Junqueira

Charles S. Peirce, “one of America’s greatest and most original thinkers” (Gaines 2018), was born in Cambridge, MA, in 1839. Peirce began his studies at college in 1855 and graduated in 1859, when he started to work for the U. S. Coast and Geodetic Survey, where his assignments included measuring the intensity of the earth’s gravitational field using swinging pendulums, often designed by him. In 1863, Peirce obtained a bachelor of science degree in chemistry. In 1873, Peirce was nominated member of Washington’s Philosophical Society, and in 1877, he was elected to be a member of the National Academy of Sciences. In 1879, Peirce began teaching Logic at Johns Hopkins University, a second job he kept until 1884. Meanwhile, in 1880, Peirce was elected a member of the London Mathematical Society. During this period (79-84), when Peirce occupied his only academic position, he had various students who happened to make a name for themselves, such as Christine Ladd-Franklin, Thorstein Veblen and John Dewey. After Peirce lost the Johns Hopkins job, he was left with his job  – which came to an end in 1891 – at the U. S. Coast and Geodetic Survey, plus the twofold task of composing entries for the Century Dictionary and writing book reviews for the Nation. Inter alia, Peirce, who never finished a book, was a philosopher, an inventor, experimental psychologist, historian of science and expert in mathematics, astronomy, chemistry, cartography, and metaphysics, whose writings – which extend over around six decades, from the late 1850s until his death in 1914, in Milford, PA – amount to over ninety-thousand pages: about twelve-thousand published plus eighty-thousand manuscripts. After Peirce’s death, his unpublished manuscripts were bought by the Department of Philosophy at Harvard University. Anyhow, Peirce published on a vast collection of topics, and this material got spread among various publication media.

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