July 2018 – In Memoriam

William Clark

1953 — 2017

We were saddened to learn recently of the death of William Clark. Our memories of Bill go back to the early 1980s, when he was a graduate student at UCLA. After completing his PhD there, he taught for several years in Germany before returning to his native California. To our regret, we had lost touch with him in recent years, so news of his death reached us only several months after the event. We remember Bill being at the center of a lively cohort of graduate students in history of science; he was funny, incredibly smart, and very generous. We recall a focused and congenial reading group he organized. Under his guidance, and borne along by his infectious enthusiasm, several of us plowed through the works of Gadamer, Ricoeur, Foucault, and other heavyweight theorists.

In 1999, Bill published an edited collection, The Sciences in Enlightened Europe (co-edited with Jan Golinski and Simon Schaffer). The book emerged from a workshop, held at Darwin College, Cambridge in the summer of 1995, which brought together many of the scholars working on eighteenth-century science at the time. Bill was the moving spirit of the whole enterprise. He launched the project, invited the contributors, and wore down Simon Schaffer’s resistance until he agreed to join the editorial team. He then worked creatively to assemble the volume, insisting that all the contributions were valuable and devising an ingenious structure to incorporate all the chapters within a coherent overall design. The initiative for that book, much of its quirkiness, and all of its cleverest ideas, came from Bill. He was also the driving force behind another collection, Little Tools of Knowledge: Historical Essays on Academic and Bureaucratic Practices (co-edited with Peter Becker, 2001), and some of his journal articles were especially memorable, including one on “Narratology and the History of Science,” published in Studies in History and Philosophy of Science in 1995.

Bill’s magnum opus was his 660-page monograph, Academic Charisma and the Origins of the Research University (University of Chicago Press, 2006). It is a book of great learning, with extensive references, bibliography, and statistical appendices. Typical of Bill’s work, it is also full of unexpected asides, quotes from the likes of Borges and David Lodge, and a pervasive sense of fun. As Peter Galison wrote in a cover blurb, the book is “at once very erudite and immensely funny.” Anthony Grafton wrote a five-page review in the New Yorker, titled “The Nutty Professors,” and he found plenty of fuel for that epithet—and for many hilarious anecdotes—in Bill’s pages. Grafton ended by looking to the future of the university, and asking, “What ironic story will William Clark have to tell a generation from now?”

But the real irony of Bill’s achievement as one of the foremost scholars of the history of universities is much sadder than this. The biographical notice at the front of Academic Charisma records that he had taught at Göttingen, Columbia, Cambridge, Bryn Mawr, and the University of California campuses at Los Angeles, San Diego, and Riverside. He also spent several years at the Max Planck Institute in Berlin. But these were all temporary appointments, with no prospects of tenure. Despite his dedication to the life of the mind, his clear academic vocation, and his own charismatic brilliance, Bill was never offered a permanent position. The deep loss to history of science and the academic world in general—now compounded by his premature passing—will be felt acutely by everyone who knew him.

Jan Golinski and Robert S. Westman

Jean Gayon

15 June 1949 — 28 April 2018

We mourn the death of Jean Gayon, Professor at the University of Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne and Director of the Institute for History and Philosophy of Sciences and Technology. Professor Gayon wrote and edited 20 books on topics ranging from Buffon to Jacques Monod. In the words of Phil Sloan, Jean was a rare mix of historian of philosophy—his first training—historian of science, epistemologist, and one who was able to bridge Continental and Analytic discussions in a unique way. He said when he taught a semester at the University of Notre Dame that his great delight in teaching the courses was that he could bring together French and Anglophone discussions and literature, something that, to Phil’s surprise, he said he could not do in France. On the wall of his Paris office were pictures of two who were likely his philosophical heroes, Georges Canguilhem and Gaston Bachelard, but he was much broader than these teachers, as all who knew him were aware. Most of his work is in French, but his Doctorat d’état thesis in revised form was translated as Darwin’s Struggle for Survival: Heredity and the Hypothesis of Natural Selection, Cambridge University Press, 1998.

A fuller obituary notice, in French, can be found here.