Famous British Philosophers

Philosophy refers to the study of fundamental nature of knowledge, reason, mind, language and traditions. British philosophy is the study of the traditions of the people belonging to the United Kingdom. Since the medieval times, Britain has had a number of philosophers who have in their own ways greatly contributed to the British society. Francis Bacon was one of the most influential philosophical advocates of the early modern period in British history. A pioneer in the scientific revolution, it was through his works that he popularized scientific inquiry and thus was called the father of empiricism. However, the discussion of the early modern period of British philosophy remains incomplete without the mention of the classic trio, John Locke, George Berkeley and David Hume. From the mid-19th century, the country witnessed the beginning of British idealism that remained influential until the early twentieth century. Key philosophers of this time include T.H. Green, F.H. Bradley, H. H. Joachim and so on. In the early 20th century, G.E Moore and Bertrand Russell pioneered analytical philosophy that till date dominates the British philosophy. Through this section, find in detail about the life and works of important British philosophers.

This ranking is based on an algorithm that combines various factors, including the votes of our users and search trends on the internet.

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 1 C. S. Lewis

C. S. Lewis
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Famous As: Writer
Birthdate: November 29, 1898
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Belfast, Ireland
Died: November 22, 1963

C. S. Lewis was a British writer whose books have sold millions of copies worldwide after having been translated into over 30 languages. His works, such as The Chronicles of Narnia, have inspired the works of other famous authors. Lewis' work continues to attract readership and he was ranked 11th on The Times' 50 greatest British writers since 1945 list.

 2 Bertrand Russell

Bertrand Russell
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Famous As: Philosopher
Birthdate: May 18, 1872
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Trellech, Monmouthshire, UK
Died: February 2, 1970

Bertrand Russell was a British polymath and Nobel laureate. His work, which is spread across various fields, has had a considerable influence on philosophy, cognitive science, artificial intelligence, mathematics, linguistics, and logic. Russell is also credited with leading the revolt against idealism in Britain and is regarded as one of the founders of analytic philosophy.

 3 Alan Watts

Alan Watts
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Famous As: Philosopher, Writer & Speaker
Birthdate: January 6, 1915
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Chislehurst, Kent, England
Died: November 16, 1973

Alan Watts was a British writer, philosopher, and speaker. He is credited with popularizing Hinduism, Taoism, and Buddhism in the Western world. A prolific writer, Alan Watts wrote one of Buddhism's first bestselling books, The Way of Zen. He also explored psychedelics and human consciousness in his works, such as The Joyous Cosmology and The New Alchemy.

 4 John Locke

John Locke
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Famous As: Father of Classical Liberalism
Birthdate: August 29, 1632
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Wrington, Somerset, England
Died: October 28, 1704
John Locke, also known as The Father of Liberalism, was a prominent Enlightenment Age philosopher. A qualified physician, Locke postulated the theory of mind, empiricism, and the idea of tabula rasa. His ideas influenced the social contract theory, the works of Kant and Rousseau, and the U.S. Declaration of Independence.

 5 Mary Wollstonecraft

Mary Wollstonecraft
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Famous As: Novelist
Birthdate: April 27, 1759
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: London, England
Died: September 10, 1797

Mary Wollstonecraft was an English writer, advocate of women's rights, and philosopher. Wollstonecraft, who attracted a lot of attention for her unconventional personal relationships, is widely considered a founding feminist philosopher. Although her unorthodoxy initially attracted criticisms, her advocacy of women's equality became increasingly important during the 20th century. Modern-day feminists cite her works and her life as important influences.

 6 Francis Bacon

Francis Bacon
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Famous As: Philosopher
Birthdate: January 22, 1561
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Strand, London, England
Died: April 9, 1626

Francis Bacon was a Renaissance philosopher and author who was known as the Father of Empiricism, because of his belief in the scientific method and theory that scientific knowledge can only be created through inductive reasoning and experience. He was later knighted and served as the first Queen's counsel.

 7 Thomas Paine

Thomas Paine
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Famous As: Founding Father of the United States
Birthdate: January 29, 1737
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Thetford, England
Died: June 8, 1809

English-born American political activist, philosopher, and revolutionary, Thomas Paine, is credited to have penned some of the most influential pamphlets at the start of the American Revolution. His works inspired the common people of America and motivated them to fight for independence from British rule. He was ostracized for criticizing Christianity and died a lonely man.

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 8 John Stuart Mill

John Stuart Mill
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Famous As: British Philosopher and Civil Servant.
Birthdate: May 20, 1806
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Pentonville, London, England
Died: May 8, 1873
Nineteenth-century philosopher John Stuart Mill is best remembered for his work On Liberty, which spoke of personal freedom and "the harm principle.” His The Subjection of Women was one of the first works written by a male author that promoted women's rights. He supported Jeremy Bentham's ethical utilitarianism.

 9 Karl Popper

Karl Popper
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Famous As: Philosopher
Birthdate: July 28, 1902
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Vienna
Died: September 17, 1994
Austrian-British philosopher and academic Sir Karl Popper is remembered as one of the most prominent philosophers of the 20th century. He rejected the inductivist scientific method and advocated for the empirical falsification, detailing falsifiability in his book Logik der Forschung. He was also a supporter of liberal democracy. 

 10 Jeremy Bentham

Jeremy Bentham
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Famous As: Philosopher
Birthdate: February 15, 1748
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Spitalfields
Died: June 6, 1832
Philosopher and jurist Jeremy Bentham is remembered as the pioneer of modern utilitarianism. He believed in economic freedoms, women’s rights, animal rights, the separation of the church and the state, and freedom of expression. Bentham wished for his body to be dissected and then to be displayed as an auto-icon.

 11 Herbert Spencer

Herbert Spencer
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Famous As: Philosopher
Birthdate: April 27, 1820
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Derby, Derbyshire, England
Died: December 8, 1903

Herbert Spencer was the man behind the expression “survival of the fittest,” after reading Charles Darwin's iconic work On the Origin of Species. The British anthropologist, sociologist, and philosopher introduced the concept of Social Darwinism, which applied the theory of evolution to societies and social classes.

 12 George Boole

George Boole
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Famous As: Mathematician, Philosopher and Logician
Birthdate: November 2, 1815
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Lincoln
Died: December 8, 1864

George Boole is remembered for pioneering Boolean algebra, a tool used in digital computer circuits. More of a self-taught mathematician, Boole began teaching at 16 and later grew up to be a math professor at Queen’s College, Cork. His work in differential equations and algebraic logic was groundbreaking.

 13 Samuel Coleridge

Samuel Coleridge
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Famous As: Poet
Birthdate: October 21, 1772
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Ottery St Mary, Devon, Great Britain, United Kingdom
Died: July 25, 1834

Samuel Coleridge was an English poet, philosopher, theologian, and literary critic. He is credited with co-founding the Romantic Movement in England along with his friend William Wordsworth. Despite struggling from bouts of depression and anxiety throughout his adult life, Samuel Coleridge had a major influence on American transcendentalism and writers like Ralph Waldo Emerson.

 14 William Penn

William Penn
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Famous As: Founder of the Province of Pennsylvania
Birthdate: October 14, 1644
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: London, United Kingdom
Died: July 30, 1718

William Penn was a writer and one of the earliest members of the Quakers. He is credited with founding the Province of Pennsylvania. He also oversaw the planning and development of the city of Philadelphia. Penn has several universities and schools named in his honor, including the William Penn University in Iowa. 

 15 Roger Scruton

Roger Scruton
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Famous As: Philosopher
Birthdate: February 27, 1944
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Buslingthorpe, Lincolnshire, England
Died: January 12, 2020

Philosopher and author Roger Scruton is best remembered for his work as an editor of The Salisbury Review and for his countless books on topics such as art, sexuality, and political philosophy. He also taught at Boston University and other institutes, and was a skilled pianist and composer, too.

 16 John Wycliffe

John Wycliffe
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Famous As: Philosopher, Theologian
Birthdate: 1328 AD
Birthplace: Hipswell, United Kingdom
Died: December 31, 1384

 17 John Dee

John Dee
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Famous As: Mathematician, Philosopher
Birthdate: July 13, 1527
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Tower Ward, London
Died: February 29, 1609

 18 Thomas Hobbes

Thomas Hobbes
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Famous As: Philosopher
Birthdate: April 5, 1588
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Wiltshire
Died: December 4, 1679

Thomas Hobbes was an English philosopher. Widely regarded as the co-founder of modern political philosophy, Hobbes is best known for his influential book Leviathan. Apart from political philosophy, Thomas Hobbes also contributed immensely to various other fields, such as ethics, theology, geometry, history, and jurisprudence.

 19 Alfred North Whitehead

Alfred North Whitehead
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Famous As: Mathematician, Philosopher
Birthdate: February 15, 1861
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Ramsgate, Kent, England
Died: December 30, 1947

Alfred North Whitehead was a British mathematician and philosopher, best known for his collaboration with his student Bertrand Russell on Principal of Mathematics, a three-volume work on the foundations of mathematics. Also known for his pioneering works on process philosophy and metaphysics, he is credited with developing a comprehensive metaphysical system that differs from most Western philosophies.

 20 Robert Hooke

Robert Hooke
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Famous As: Philosopher
Birthdate: July 28, 1635
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Freshwater, Isle of Wight
Died: March 3, 1703

Scientist Robert Hooke, also called England's Leonardo, initially gained recognition as an architect, conducting surveys following the Great Fire of London. He also taught geometry and was part of the Royal Society. He assisted Robert Boyle and eventually developed his own microscope, thus becoming the first to visualize micro-organisms.

 21 William of Ockham

William of Ockham
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Famous As: Philosopher
Birthdate: 1287 AD
Birthplace: Ockham Civil Parish, United Kingdom
Died: April 10, 1347

William of Ockham, also known as Doctor Invincibilis, is chiefly remembered as one of the pioneers of nominalism. The 14th-cenntury Franciscan friar was also a scholar and philosopher, and laid the foundation of Occam’s razor. His written works include Summa logicae and his commentary on his own lectures, Sentences.

 22 Isaiah Berlin

Sir Isaiah Berlin
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Famous As: Philosopher
Birthdate: June 6, 1909
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Riga, Latvia
Died: November 5, 1997

British historian and philosopher Isaiah Berlin is best remembered for his concepts of liberal theory and value pluralism. He is also considered a pioneer of intellectual history. Initially a philosophy lecturer, he later deviated to political science. He also penned iconic works such as The Hedgehog and the Fox.

 23 Terry Eagleton

Terry Eagleton
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Famous As: Literary critic
Birthdate: February 22, 1943
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: County Borough of Salford Salford, England

 24 Alasdair MacIntyre

Alasdair MacIntyre
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Famous As: Philosopher, Professor
Birthdate: January 12, 1929
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Glasgow

 25 J. L. Austin

J. L. Austin
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Famous As: Philosopher
Birthdate: March 26, 1911
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Lancaster, England
Died: February 8, 1960

Philosopher J. L. Austin is remembered for his study on ordinary-language philosophy and is also considered a pioneer of the theory of speech acts. His lectures at Harvard were later collected in How to Do Things with Words. He died of cancer while developing a theory on sound symbolism.

 26 Derek Parfit

Derek Parfit
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Famous As: Philosopher
Birthdate: December 11, 1942
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Chengdu
Died: January 1, 2017

 27 Philippa Foot

Philippa Foot
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Famous As: Philosopher, University teacher
Birthdate: October 3, 1920
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Owston Ferry
Died: October 3, 2010

Philippa Foot is remembered as a forerunner of what is now known as virtue ethics. Granddaughter of American president Grover Cleveland, Foot laid down the Trolley problem and believed that the morality of any act is related to its rationality. She was also associated with the charitable organization Oxfam.

 28 Frank P. Ramsey

Frank P. Ramsey
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Famous As: Mathematician, Philosopher, Economist
Birthdate: February 22, 1903
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Cambridge
Died: January 19, 1930

British philosopher and mathematician Frank P. Ramsey was the son of a famed mathematician and later laid down the Ramsey theory of mathematical logic. The Cambridge alumnus also translated Ludwig Wittgenstein’s Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus but died at age 26, probably due to a liver infection he contracted while swimming.

 29 A.J. Ayer

A.J. Ayer
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Famous As: Philosopher
Birthdate: October 29, 1910
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: St John's Wood, London, England
Died: June 27, 1989

Educated at the prestigious Eton College and the University of Oxford, A.J. Ayer grew up to popularize logical positivism. During World War II, he had been an MI6 spy. Known for his bestselling work Language, Truth, and Logic, he promoted ideas such as emotivist ethics and the verification principle.

 30 H. L. A. Hart

H. L. A. Hart
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Famous As: Philosopher
Birthdate: July 18, 1907
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Harrogate, England
Died: December 19, 1992

Noted 20th-century political philosopher H. L. A. Hart was a practicing lawyer and had also worked with MI5 during World War II. Known for his iconic works such as The Concept of Law and Law, Liberty and Morality, he made significant contributions to the field of legal positivism.

 31 G. E. Moore

George Edward Moore
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Famous As: Philosopher
Birthdate: November 4, 1873
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: London, England
Died: October 24, 1958

English philosopher G. E. Moore was one of the pioneers of analytic philosophy. Best known for his iconic works such as Principia Ethica, he also taught moral science and philosophy. Moore was also a sworn agnostic and was part of the Cambridge Apostles, a secret society of British intellectuals.

 32 Gilbert Ryle

Gilbert Ryle
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Famous As: Philosopher
Birthdate: August 19, 1900
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Brighton
Died: October 6, 1976

 33 John Austin

John Austin
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Famous As: jurist, philosopher
Birthdate: March 3, 1790
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Suffolk
Died: December 1, 1859

 34 G. E. M. Anscombe

G. E. M. Anscombe
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Famous As: Philosopher
Birthdate: March 18, 1919
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Limerick, Ireland
Died: January 5, 2001

 35 Henry Sidgwick

Henry Sidgwick
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Famous As: Philosopher
Birthdate: May 31, 1838
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Skipton, Yorkshire, England
Died: August 28, 1900

 36 Michael Dummett

Michael Dummett
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Famous As: Philosopher
Birthdate: June 27, 1925
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: London, England
Died: December 27, 2011

 37 Simon Blackburn

Simon Blackburn
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Famous As: Philosopher, University teacher
Birthdate: July 12, 1944
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Chipping Sodbury

 38 Simon Critchley

Simon Critchley
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Famous As: Philosopher, University teacher
Birthdate: February 27, 1960
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Hertfordshire

Considered oneof the top 25 most influential contemporary philosophers, Simon Critchley has a wide range of interests, which includes continental philosophy, philosophy and literature, psychoanalysis, ethics, and political theory. A prolific writer, he is also the Hans Jonas Professor of Philosophy at the New School for Social Research and Professor of Philosophy at the European Graduate School.

 39 Mary Midgley

Mary Midgley
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Famous As: Philosopher, Author, University teacher, Writer
Birthdate: September 13, 1919
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Greater London

 40 P. F. Strawson

P. F. Strawson
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Famous As: Philosopher
Birthdate: November 23, 1919
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: London, England
Died: February 13, 2006

 41 Galen Strawson

Galen Strawson
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Famous As: philosopher, university teacher
Birthdate: 1952 AD
Birthplace: United Kingdom

A British analytic philosopher and literary critic, Galen John Strawson works primarily on philosophy of mind and metaphysics, propagating that neither free will nor moral responsibility exists. Author of eleven books and innumerable articles, he has also served as a consultant editor and book reviewer for many well-known magazines.  Currently, he is teaching at the University of Texas, Austin

 42 Colin McGinn

Colin McGinn
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Famous As: Philosopher, University teacher
Birthdate: March 10, 1950
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: West Hartlepool

Best known for his work on new mysterianism and the philosophy of mind, British philosopher Colin McGinn has been a renowned philosophy professor. He has penned several books, including novels and short stories. He is an animal rights activist, too. However, his career was marred by a sexual harassment accusation.

 43 R. M. Hare

R. M. Hare
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Famous As: Philosopher
Birthdate: March 12, 1919
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Backwell, England
Died: January 29, 2002

Best known for his theory on universal prescriptivism, British moral philosopher R. M. Hare initially studied classics at Balliol College, Oxford. He had also been part of World War II and captured by Japan. Essays on Political Morality remains one of his most significant works.

 44 J. J. C. Smart

J. J. C. Smart
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Famous As: Philosopher, University teacher
Birthdate: September 16, 1920
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Cambridge
Died: October 6, 2012

Known as a pioneer of physicalism, British-Australian philosopher J. J. C. Smart laid the foundation of the Type Identity theory. A professor of philosophy, who spent most of life teaching at prestigious universities such as the Australian National University, Smart was also a skilled player of both cricket and hockey.

 45 F. H. Bradley

F. H. Bradley
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Famous As: Philosopher
Birthdate: January 30, 1846
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Clapham
Died: September 18, 1924

A prominent 19th century English philosopher of the absolute Idealist school and a fellow of Merton College, Oxford, Francis Herbert Bradley was an opponent of the British Empiricist theories and utilitarian trends.  Well-known for his non-pluralistic approach to philosophy, he devoted his life to writing, publishing five books in his lifetime, most significant among them being Appearance and Reality.

 46 Peter Geach

Peter Geach
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Famous As: Philosopher, University teacher, Philosophy historian
Birthdate: March 29, 1916
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: London
Died: December 21, 2013

Born to a philosophy professor, Peter Geach followed in his father’s footsteps to master the subject and teach at various universities, such as the University of Birmingham. Best known for his work on the theory of identity, he married renowned philosopher Elizabeth Anscombe and also collaborated with her.

 47 Joseph Priestley

Joseph Priestley
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Famous As: Discoverer of Oxygen
Birthdate: March 24, 1733
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Birstall
Died: February 6, 1804

 48 Roger Bacon

Roger Bacon
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Famous As: Philosopher
Birthdate: 1214 AD
Birthplace: Ilchester
Died: 1294 AD

 49 Iris Murdoch

Iris Murdoch
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Famous As: Novelist
Birthdate: July 15, 1919
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Dublin, Ireland
Died: February 8, 1999

 50 William Godwin

William Godwin
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Famous As: Journalist
Birthdate: March 3, 1756
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Wisbech
Died: April 7, 1836