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Title Ayer (Rogers) Papers
Date1 20th century
StorageSite UCL Special Collections
Level Collection
Extent 7 boxes
CreatorName Ayer; Sir; Alfred Jules; Philosopher
Rogers; Ben; author and journalist

This collection about A J Ayer was collated by Ben Rogers during the course of researching for his authorised biography 'A J Ayer: A Life' (1999). Ben Rogers, is an Associate Fellow of the Institution for Public Policy Research and Demos, and has also worked as a journalist for the Guardian.

Alfred Jules Ayer, A J or "Freddie", (1910-1989) was a British philosopher, educator and leading voice on logical positivism due to his bestselling book Language, Truth and Logic (1936). He was educated at Eton where he excelled in classics, and in 1929 he won a classics scholarship to University of Oxford where he went on to study philosophy. In 1933 he attended the meetings of the "Vienna Circle" where his interest in logical positivism was peaked and went on to write his British take on logical positivism cementing himself as one of the most influential philosophers of the 20th century.

At the outbreak of World War II, Ayer volunteered for the Welsh Guards and went on to join an intelligence unit becoming a specialist on France and the French Resistance with the rank of Major. By 1946 he had secured an Oxford fellowship as Dean of Wadham College, and had been appointed Grote Professor of Mental Philosophy at University College London (UCL). From 1944-1959 he greatly improved the Philosophy department at UCL making it one of the best in the country to rival Cambridge and Oxford. After his tenure at UCL he returned to Oxford to become Wykeham Professor of Logic at New College from 1959-1978. Throughout his professional career Ayer was a regular fixture in televised and radio show discussions about philosophy, he built friendships and competitive professional relationships with many of his contemporaries such as; Isaiah Berlin, H H Price, Stuart Hampshire, Bertrand Russell and William Kneale. A well as well-known names from literary and creative circles such as; Jocelyn Rickards and Iris Murdoch. During his time as Wykeham Professor he continued to be an effective educator, and influential voice in Philosophy circles, he was knighted in 1970 and became a chevalier of the Légion d'honneur in 1977.

A J Ayer was married four times throughout his life; to Renée Lees (1909-80) with whom he had a daughter and adopted son (Valerie and Julian; d 2004), to Dee Wells (1925-2003) with whom he had a step-daughter (Gully) and a son (Nick; b 1963), to Vanessa Lawson (1936-1985), and then again to Dee Wells near the end of his life. Throughout his marriages Ayer had numerous mistresses, with one of which, Sheilah Graham, he had a daughter (Wendy).

Acquisition Deposited with UCL by the Ayer family through the creator Ben Rogers as a gift in 2007, through Jonathan Woolf, UCL Philosophy department.
Description Collection on Sir A.J. Ayer, consists of: correspondence between Rogers and Ayer's family, friends and acquaintances regarding Ayer and his personal and working life(c.1980s-1990s); Rogers' general notes and notes of interviews with family, friends and acquaintances regarding Ayer and his personal and working life (1994-1998); original and photocopied material for research (1932-1998) and Ayer's Works (1946-1984).
Repository GB 0103
AccessStatus Certain restrictions apply
AccessConditions The papers are available subject to the usual conditions of access to Archives and Manuscripts material, after the completion of a Reader's Undertaking.
ReproductionConditions Photocopies/photographs/microfilm are supplied for private research only at the Archivist's discretion. Please note that material may be unsuitable for copying on conservation grounds, and that photographs cannot be photocopied in any circumstances. Researchers who wish to publish material must seek copyright permission from the copyright owner.
CatalogueStatus Catalogued
Arrangement The files have been arranged into four series: Biography Research Correspondence; Notes and Notes of Interviews; Original and Photocopied Material for Research and Ayer's Works. This is to retain the original order and provenance of the collection.
Language French
RelatedMaterial University College London Special Collections also holds other Ayer material in other collections, which can be found:
  • HALDANE/3/3/1/3/4
  • HALDANE/3/3/1/4/4
  • HALDANE/3/3/2/2/2
  • HALDANE/3/3/2/3/4
  • HALDANE/3/3/1/1/40
  • HALDANE/3/5/2/2/50
  • MS ADD 326
  • MS ADD 434
  • ORWELL/S/7
  • WOLLHEIM/1/1/4
  • WOLLHEIM/3/27
Term Essays
Personal papers

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