On August 4, 1834, English logician and philosopher John Venn was born. He is best known for his contribution of the eponymous Venn diagram, used in the fields of set theory, probability, logic, statistics, and computer science.
John Venn grew up in a quite religious family and it was expected that he followed his family’s tradition into priesthood. He attended Gonville and Caius College Cambridge and was awarded a mathematics scholarship in his second year. After graduating, Venn was elected a Fellow of Gonville and Caius College and became an ordained priest two years later.
In 1862, Venn returned to Cambridge as a lecturer in Moral Science and studying and teaching logic and probability theory. It is believed that Venn became more enthusiastic about the field of logic after reading the works of De Morgan, Boole, John Austin, and John Stuart Mill. He also began extending Boole’s mathematical logic and created what he is best known for on this day, his diagrammatic way of representing sets, and their unions and intersections. Venn considered three discs R, S, and T as typical subsets of a set U. The intersections of these discs and their complements divide U into 8 non-overlapping regions, the unions of which give 256 different Boolean combinations of the original sets R, S, T. Keynes later described his new method as very original and a great contribution to the theory of statistics.
In his later career, John Venn was elected a member of the Royal Society and wrote his book ‘The Biographical History of Gonville and Cauis College’, which was published in 1897. His son, John Archibald Venn became president of Queen’s College, Cambridge in 1932. John Venn died on 4th April 1923.
At yovisto, you can learn more about ‘The beauty of data visualization‘ in a lecture by David McCandless.
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