12 thoughts on “Ruth Barcan Marcus: No newspaper obituaries yet

  1. Andreas – I think the fact that no-one knew her is partly what is being pointed out here as scandalous. Men in philosophy tend to become more famous than women in philosophy, in a way that has nothing to do with the relative quality of men and women’s work.

  2. There has got to be some path or paths between the death and the obit. I expect there are many different ways, but none is magical, and some may involve someone notifying the newspaper.

    The reason I mention this is that I was quite close to Margaret Wilson when she was dying, and she definitely didn’t want a death notice to go to the NY Times. I think she thought it was vulgar, or something like that.

    Not everyone here will know, but MW was a highly respected historian of philosophy who influenced many younger historians.

  3. Does anyone have friends at Yale whom they could ask about this? I mean a friend-to-friend question, not an accusation. I don’t have any decent Yale connections or I would do it myself. I find this really upsetting.

    Yale put out a perfectly decent obit here: http://news.yale.edu/2012/02/21/memoriam-ruth-barcan-marcus So the problem is not coming up with one but figuring out why it hasn’t been disseminated.

    (Also, I find Andreas’s comment close to trolling, and disrespectful. Of course some people ‘knew her’ – what does that even mean? She was in several departments over many decades and was a human being with a full life. How was that comment supposed to be helpful rather than just vaguely insulting?)

  4. Interesting idea, Rebecca. We could also write the NYTimes public editor, Arthur Brisbane:

    E-mail: public@nytimes.com
    Phone: (212) 556-7652
    Address: Public Editor
    The New York Times
    620 Eighth Avenue
    New York, NY 10018

  5. of course most non-philosophers don’t know her. most people who work in metaphysics or logic know who she was though.

  6. Rebecca, I asked a friend at Yale, who says that both Yale and the APA have been “lobbying heavily”, but without success.

  7. If only people work in on modal logic knew of Marcus and her work it would be a pretty small group. Her work was, I gather (I don’t work on modal logic and am not competent to evaluate the technical parts of the work) important enough that it might still merit major media attention, especially given her pioneering status. But, her work was also important in philosophical logic, philosophy of language, and several areas of metaphysics. She played an important part in the shift from a general suspicion of modalities and the like found in people like Quine to their more or less being mainstream topics in metaphysics, logic, and several other areas today. Given that, it’s clear she played an important role in major changes in the profession, at a time when it was both hard and unlikely for a woman to do so. (Her papers outside of her main areas were not, I think, very numerous, but the ones I’ve read were insightful and interesting, too.)

  8. coincidentally, before googling & finding this thread, i just sent the following email to the times:

    Dear Sir,

    One of the giants of 20th century philosophy and mathematical logic
    recently died, a woman who was also a pillar of the Yale Philosophy
    Dept for years: Ruth Barcan Marcus. It is nothing less than a scandal
    that the NYT has published no obituary of Professor Marcus.
    From without it looks (with close to certainty) to be *exactly*
    the kind of gender prejudice that Professor Marcus had to overcome in
    her glittering career.

    For the record, I never knew her.

    Now publish the damn obituary!

    Scott Sturgeon

    Professor of Philosophy
    Faculty of Philosophy
    University of Oxford

    i hope others will do the same.

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