Great Britain

Column: Roger Bingham on a 'worthy of Westmorland'

THE Rev William Whewell (pronounced Hugh-ull), 1794-1866, is rightly regarded as a 'worthy of Westmorland', although he was the son of a Lancaster carpenter.

He was, however, initially educated at Heversham Grammar School, when he boarded in the hamlet of Deepthwaite, about a mile from the school - which was airily situated on Heversham Head.

Later, he was instrumental in the grammar school's move to new premises in the village.

A polymath, he famously coined the word 'scientist', while his research motto was 'every failure is a step to success'. Also a brilliant linguist, when he debated with the Prussian philosopher Alexander Humbolt, he was thought to be German.

As master of Trinity College and professor of mineralogy, he was the doyen of Cambridge university; where Whewell Court is named after him.

In 1847 he successfully organised the election, by a narrow majority, of Prince Albert, consort of Queen Victoria, as the university's chancellor. Unfortunately his hosting skills were not high and, when the royal couple came to stay, their bed was so short that Albert's feet 'poked out into the night air'.

But, naughtily, the prince's biographer, A. N. Wilson, remarks that 'their sixth child Princess Louise was born nine months later'.

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