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  • Open Access
  • © 2022

A Prodigy of Universal Genius: Robert Leslie Ellis, 1817-1859

  • Places Ellis at the heart of early-Victorian Cambridge with in-depth descriptions on his scientific work and tragic life

  • Provides a unique glimpse into Victorian intellectual culture, based on previously unpublished archival materials

  • Of scholarly interest while being accessible to a wide readership

  • This book is open access, which means that you have free and unlimited access

Part of the book series: Studies in History and Philosophy of Science (AUST, volume 55)

  • 5749 Accesses

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Softcover Book USD 49.99
Price excludes VAT (USA)
Hardcover Book USD 59.99
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Table of contents (8 chapters)

  1. Front Matter

    Pages i-xxvii
  2. Chapters

    1. Front Matter

      Pages 1-1
    2. Ellis’s Character, John Grote and the Cambridge Network

      • John R. Gibbins
      Pages 51-75Open Access
    3. Ellis on Mathematical Statistics and Probability

      • Stephen M. Stigler
      Pages 109-119Open Access
    4. Ellis’s Philosophy and Bacon Scholarship

      • Lukas M. Verburgt
      Pages 121-145Open Access
    5. Robert Leslie Ellis: An Almost Perfect Moral Nature

      • Joan L. Richards
      Pages 147-167Open Access
  3. Manuscripts

    1. Front Matter

      Pages 169-169
    2. Ellis’s Papers in Trinity College, Cambridge

      • Jonathan Smith
      Pages 171-179Open Access
  4. Back Matter

    Pages 181-446

About this book

This open access book brings together for the first time all aspects of the tragic life and fascinating work of the polymath Robert Leslie Ellis (1817–1859), placing him at the heart of early-Victorian intellectual culture. 

Written by a diverse team of experts, the chapters in the book’s first part contain in-depth examinations of, among other things, Ellis’s family, education, Bacon scholarship and mathematical contributions. The second part consists of annotated transcriptions of a selection of Ellis’s diaries and correspondence. Taken together, A Prodigy of Universal Genius: Robert Leslie Ellis, 1817–1859 is a rich resource for historians of science, historians of mathematics and Victorian scholars alike. 

Robert Leslie Ellis was one of the most intriguing and wide-ranging intellectual figures of early Victorian Britain, his contributions ranging from advanced mathematical analysis to profound commentaries on philosophy and classics and a decisive role in the orientation of mid-nineteenth century scholarship. This very welcome collection offers both new and authoritative commentaries on the work, setting it in the context of the mathematical, philosophical and cultural milieux of the period, together with fascinating passages from the wealth of unpublished papers Ellis composed during his brief and brilliant career.

- Simon Schaffer, Department of History and Philosophy of Science, University of Cambridge 


  • Robert Leslie Ellis
  • the Cambridge network
  • mathematical education
  • Open Access
  • William Whewell
  • history of science in Britain
  • the history of ideas
  • early-Victorian Cambridge
  • history of mathematical sciences
  • Victorian intellectual culture
  • life of Robert Leslie Ellis

Editors and Affiliations

  • Netherlands Institute for Advanced Study in the Humanities and Social Sciences (NIAS) & Institute of Philosophy, Leiden University, Amsterdam/Leiden, The Netherlands

    Lukas M. Verburgt

About the editor

Lukas M. Verburgt is Postdoctoral Researcher at the Freudenthal Institute, History and Philosophy of Science, at Utrecht University. He has held visiting research positions at the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science, Berlin, the Department of History and Philosophy of Science, Cambridge, and Trinity College, Cambridge; between September 2021 and June 2022 he will be Fellow of the Netherlands Institute for Advanced Study (NIAS). His research concerns the changing relationship between science and philosophy as sources of knowledge in the nineteenth and early twentieth century. He is the author of John Venn: A Life in Logic (The University of Chicago Press, 2021) and (co-editor) of Aristotle’s Syllogism and the Creation of Modern Logic (Bloomsbury Academic, forthcoming). 

Bibliographic Information

Buying options

Softcover Book USD 49.99
Price excludes VAT (USA)
Hardcover Book USD 59.99
Price excludes VAT (USA)