George Berkeley – Why some schools may have taken his name

You have probably heard of The University of California, Berkeley (usually referred to as just Berkley) and the city that surrounds it, and perhaps you know of a few other schools that carry this name. As is the case with many schools, which take their name from, an individual rather than the city or town they operate in, these schools are generally named in order to commemorate an individual and his or her contributions to the intellectual or educational landscape. In the case of most Berkeley educational facilities, the individual in question is George Berkeley. In this article, we will take a look at what he contributed that makes his a name worth remembering and commemorating in education.

The individual

George Berkeley was born in Ireland in 1685. He grew up a nobleman’s son, and thus was afforded access to several “luxuries” of the time, including tutors and wealth. Both of these factors enabled him to attend Kilkenny College and later Trinity College, both located in Dublin. After receiving his Master’s Degree, Berkeley stayed on at Trinity and became a tutor and a lecturer in Greek classes.

Berkeley’s contributions

During his education and work career, Berkeley was to publish several important works in different fields. While his first contribution was in the field of mathematics, the first publication that really received attention was Essay towards a New Theory of Vision. This essay was published in 1709, and greatly contributed to modern day thought in the field of optics although it was very controversial at the time.

His next important contributions were in the field of philosophy, although once again Berkeley used the idea of sight and the senses to build on his theories. The works were actually a series, the first was an explanation and the second a defence of his philosophical ideas. The system was based on the idea that, in order for the world as represented by our senses to exist, it must first be perceived. Again, Berkeley was to be subjected to extensive criticism and even mockery for his ideas, which were designed to combat the prevailing philosophy of materialism at the time.

Berkeley’s ideas of existence based on perception have always created a conundrum for philosophers, both in his day and in modern times. However, he did introduce a new concept to the world of philosophy that has yet to be refuted, despite many efforts. His unorthodox approach and his recognition by many of the finest minds of his day (including those opposed to his ideas) as a genius, have made him a figure worth commemorating through the names of some of the finest schools.