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Edward Bibbins Aveling

(1849—1898) Marxist campaigner


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Edward Bibbins Aveling was born in Stoke Newington on 29 November 1849 and died of kidney disease on 2 August 1898 in London. He was the fourth son of the Revd Thomas Aveling, a Congregationalist minister serving in East London, and Mary Ann Goodal. A brilliant student, Aveling was educated at Harrow School, the Dissenters' Proprietary School, Taunton, and the Faculty of Medicine at University College London. He received the BSc in Zoology in 1870, then studied under the Cambridge physiologist Michael Foster before earning the DSc at the University of London in 1876, the year he was appointed Lecturer in Comparative Anatomy at London Hospital. Aveling also taught science at King's College London; wrote science textbooks, socialist tracts and militantly atheistic pamphlets; published in such journals as Commonweal, National Reformer, Progress and Freethinker; and worked as an editor, translator, drama critic, playwright, public speaker, journalist and political organizer. In 1884, while still married to Isabel Frank, he began a common law marriage to Eleanor Marx, the youngest daughter of Karl and Jenny, and a prominent intellectual and activist. This granted Aveling credibility among England's radical and socialist elites. He spent Eleanor's money and accepted her complete devotion; she endured his repeated financial and sexual infidelities, finally committing suicide on 31 March 1898, when she learned of his secret marriage (under the name ‘Alec Nelson’) to a 22-year-old actress. Contemporaries praised Aveling as a passionate orator and impressive intellect, although most described his moral character as odious. He was a man for whom principle and self-interest were indistinguishable.

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From The Continuum Encyclopedia of British Philosophy in Oxford Reference.

Subjects: Philosophy.


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