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Anne Conway (1) [1631–1679]

This page covers the author of The Principles of the Most Ancient and Modern Philosophy.

For other authors named Anne Conway, see the disambiguation page.

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Anne Conway, née Finch, Viscountess Conway, was born in London, the posthumous daughter of Sir Heneage Finch, Speaker of the British House of Commons, and his second wife Elizabeth Cradock. She grew up in the house now known as Kensington Palace. She was the youngest child in a large family and especially close to her half-brother, John Finch. His teacher at the Cambridge University, Henry More, undertook to tutor Anne in philosophy via letter since, as a woman, she was unable to go to university. They remained friends for the rest of her life. In 1651, she married Edward, 3rd Viscount Conway. The Conway family owned one of the finest private libraries of the period, and her husband appears to have encouraged Anne's use of it and her intellectual interests. In 1660, her only child died as a baby from smallpox, which she caught from nursing him, but survived. However, from her teenage years, she had suffered from excruciating headaches; the pain became worse and the episodes more frequent as she got older. It was in the search for relief from this disorder that she met Francis Mercury van Helmont, the Flemish physician and philosopher. He lived in her household at Ragley Hall and introduced her to Jewish kabbalistic thought and Quakerism. She learned Latin, Greek and Hebrew in order to pursue her interests in Platonism and other philosophies. She was the author of The Principles of the Most Ancient and Modern Philosophy, which discussed the ideas of Descartes, Hobbes, and Spinoza. It was published in 1690, 11 years after her death at age 47, and was considered highly influential.

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