The New Student's Reference Work/Berkeley, George

Berkeley, George, bishop of Cloyne, was born near Kilkenny, Ireland, in 1685.  After graduating at Trinity College, Dublin, he remained there thirteen years as a fellow, studying and writing on philosophy.  His theory, called Idealism was that the world exists only in our thoughts and that the objects around us are only ideas, which God, as the highest reason, causes to pass before our minds.  At Trinity, he had become a friend of Dean Swift, and in 1713 he went to London, where Swift introduced him into the brilliant society of the reign of Queen Anne.  He next traveled for some years through France and Italy.  On his return he wrote a great deal on social questions.  In 1728, having formed a plan to convert the American savages, he came to America; and for three years lived in Rhode Island, writing, studying and preaching.  He then gave up his work and returned to England, leaving his library of 800 volumes and his estate in Rhode Island, called Whitehall, to Yale College.  He was soon after made bishop of Cloyne, in the south of Ireland, where he lived for eighteen years, and then removed to London and died in January, 1753.  Besides his writings on philosophy and social questions, Bishop Berkeley wrote the well-known stanzas On the Prospect of Planting Arts and Learning in America, in which occurs the famous line: “Westward the course of empire takes its way.”