January 2018 – In Memoriam

Frederick B. Churchill

Frederick B. Churchill

14 December 1932 — 22 July 2017

(By Paul Farber)

Frederick Barton Churchill, Emeritus Professor of the History and Philosophy of Science at Indiana University died on 22 July 2017 at the age of 84. He was born on 14 December 1932, the oldest son of Mary Barton Churchill and the distinguished surgeon, Dr. Edward Churchill of Belmont, Massachusetts. He completed his undergraduate degree in Biology at Harvard University in 1955, after which he served in the U.S. Army for two years. Subsequently, he enrolled at Columbia University where he received a Master’s Degree in History, and then returned to Harvard for his PhD in History of Science, which he completed in 1967. In 1966, he joined the Department of the History and Philosophy of Science at Indiana University where he taught until his retirement in 1997.

Fred’s research focused on German life sciences in the nineteenth century, in particular cytology and embryology. In separate articles he examined in meticulous detail a range of topics that related to heredity, generation, and development. Each is a scholarly gem that was valued by his peers. Fred’s research culminated in a magisterial biography of August Weismann that charted the work of this major scientist and placed it in the broader context of the development of modern theories in the life sciences. In so doing, Fred demonstrated the connections among natural history, theories of heredity, development, and evolution. His work on Weismann, furthermore, described the institutional settings in which the research on biology took place, as well as the personal challenges that Weismann overcame. The book was a synthesis on a grand scale and is a major contribution to the field.
Like the individuals he studied, Fred had a keen love of nature, and was an avid birdwatcher. His love of nature provided him with empathy for the scientists he studied, and an appreciation for the complexity that they were trying to unravel.

While at Indiana, Fred supervised numerous dissertations and educated a generation of historians of the life sciences. They, in turn, started careers and educated others, so that Fred’s impact on the field is extremely wide. Although some of his students pursued research on the history of German biology, others explored different national traditions. Common to his students’ work, however, has been an appreciation of complex interactions among nature, ideas, institutions, and individuals. His students cherish memories of Fred’s nurturing style of mentorship which held them to high standards of scholarship. His keen sense of humor enhanced a personality, the memory of which will not be lost.

In 1979, Fred had the good fortune to marry Sandra Smith, who brought to the marriage two children, John Smith and Brendan Smith, and an extended family from which Fred derived enormous pleasure. A celebration of Fred’s life was held on 7 October 2017 at the Unitarian Universalist Church in Bloomington, Indiana.

Roger L. WilliamsRoger L. Williams

22 June 1923 — 4 July 2017

(By John F. Freeman; Laramie, Wyoming)

The following is reproduced, in part, with permission. The entire article can be found at H-France.

Roger L. Williams, a long-time member and supporter of HSS, died on 4 July 2017 at age 94 after a brief illness. A graduate of Greeley High School (Colorado), he began college at Colorado College, interrupting his studies to volunteer in the U.S. Army. He served in the European theater as a supply sergeant during World War II and the subsequent occupation (1943-46). After graduating from Colorado College, he entered the University of Michigan, earning a PhD (1951) in history under the direction of Prince André Lobanov-Rostovsky, an expert on Russia-Asia relations during the nineteenth century. Among his early teaching positions, Roger taught at Minnesota State College at Mankato, in the humanities division at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the history department at Michigan State University, and as associate professor and head of the history department at Antioch College. In 1965 Roger was recruited by the University of California, Santa Barbara, to be professor of history and, eventually, served as department head. His graduate students, who now live and work throughout the United States and Canada, fondly recall his gifts as advisor and mentor. When pressed to become UCSB chancellor, instead he chose teaching and research by returning to familiar surroundings and to fly-fishing in Wyoming.

As professor and department head at the University of Wyoming (1971-88), Roger built the department into the region’s leading history department. He was recognized by the university trustees as University of Wyoming’s first Distinguished Professor. In retirement, Roger became an associate of the Rocky Mountain Herbarium. Through his cousin Richmond, who worked at Columbia, Roger became acquainted with Jacques Barzun; the two became life-long friends, sharing similar views on European civilization, on history as literature and as part of the humanities, and on the role of education in a liberal democracy. Barzun encouraged Roger to write cultural history, which he began with Gaslight and Shadow: The World of Napoleon III (1957), followed by eight books on the period. In honor of his intellectual mentor, Roger established and endowed the Barzun Prize in Cultural History, given annually since 1993 by the American Philosophical Society.

Fascinated since childhood by the natural sciences, Roger taught himself taxonomy while preparing Aven Nelson of Wyoming (1984), the biography of the preeminent botanist of the Rocky Mountain region. Roger deftly underpinned that biography with insights about Wyoming and its university, exhibiting the attributes that make for a truly seminal teacher. Two more books followed on the botanical history of the Rocky Mountain region. After retirement, Roger continued research in French history, publishing a trilogy of books on botany and botanists in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Acknowledging the increasing difficulties of publishing academic books, Roger wrote several essays on the legacy of French liberalism for The Journal of the Historical Society, as well as botanical essays for Brittania, Taxon, and, most recently, Huntia. Four days before his death, Roger was at his desk writing an essay, “Louis de Vilmorin, agronome savant (1816-60).” He left his estate to the Wyoming Community Foundation, which annually will distribute earnings from the endowment to the American Philosophical Society, The Nature Conservancy-Wyoming, and for community foundation grant making within the state.