William Thompson and Anna Doyle Wheeler
William Thompson (1775-1833)
William Thompson is one of the great pioneers of the Social Sciences. Born in Cork, where he lived for his entire life, William Thompson emerged as one of the most influential thinkers of his age. He championed the cause of social equality and was sharply critical of the immiseration and exploitation of the poor. His book An Inquiry into the Principles of the Distribution of Wealth (1824) became a seminal study of social inequality. William Thompson is also celebrated for his championship of women’s rights. With his companion, , he authored The Appeal of One Half of the Human Race: Women against the Pretensions of the Other (1825). It was the first major statement on women’s right to political equality written in the English language. William Thompson was also committed to the co-operative ideal, which he advocated in Practical Directions for the Establishment of Communities (1830). He passionately believed in the right to an education for every citizen. Dooley (1996) notes that Thompson saw himself primarily as a philosopher of 'true social science', understood as the science and art of creating happiness. His efforts to understand why human happiness is so unevenly distributed are followed with promises of remedies which he believed would give more widespread equality within communitiies of shared power:
"How far, and in what directions this new science and art of creating bliss, this genuine Social Science will unfold itself, we know no more than we do what will be the future course of Mechanics or Chemistry. The road to these great results is pointed out to you. The means of entering on that road are before you and in your power. Therefore, my friends of the Industrious Classes, become, as you may be, the fabricators of your own destiny." (Dooley : 1996, xvii)
His practical commitment to adult education has proven to be inspirational in the development of social studies departments in universities across the world. The Department of Applied Social Studies at UCC has adopted William Thompson as an intellectual model. His ideas and ideals live on in our teaching, research, commitment to social justice, our practice of widening participation and promoting access, and, most of all, our hope in humanity and its capacity to build a better world.