Marshall Clagett 1916-2005
Marshall Clagett, one of the world's leading historians of medieval science, in particular the work and influence of Archimedes, died early this morning at the age of 89 in Princeton, NJ. Dr. Clagett was Professor Emeritus in the School of Historical Studies at the Institute for Advanced Study, his academic home for the past four decades.
The author of more than a dozen volumes on the history of science and mathematics, Professor Clagett was one of the dominant scholars in the field of medieval science in the 20th century. His lifetime of work is marked by incisive, astute and rigorous research and scholarship on the continuity of the history of science from antiquity, through Byzantium and Islam, to the medieval and Renaissance West. Professor Clagett was twice a Member in the Institute's School of Historical Studies, in 1958-59 and in 1963, and was appointed to the Faculty in 1964. He has been Professor Emeritus since 1986.
Peter Goddard, Director of the Institute for Advanced Study, stated, "Marshall Clagett brought an intensity and vitality to his field of study. His influential body of work has had an indelible impact on the history of medieval science, and the depth and clarity of his scholarship has enlightened our understanding of subject areas as diverse as medieval physics and Egyptology. He will be greatly missed by the Institute."
"Marshall Clagett was a giant in the field of the history of science," stated Heinrich von Staden, Professor in the School of Historical Studies at the Institute. "He contributed influential, groundbreaking work to the interpretation of medieval science, in particular mathematics and natural philosophy, and he had a tremendous impact on the field through both his scholarship and his personality. He was a generous interlocutor for scholars young and old working in a wide range of disciplines, and he will be greatly missed by his Institute colleagues and the larger intellectual community."
Professor Clagett's most recent work at the Institute focused on science in ancient Egypt, for which he has made extensive use of computers for the interpretation of hieroglyphics. At the time of his death, he was working on the fourth and final volume of Ancient Egyptian Science. In 1989, Volume I of this text received the John Frederick Lewis Prize of the American Philosophical Society, and marked the second time Professor Clagett received the prize. He was first awarded it in 1981 for Volumes II and IV of his seminal work, Archimedes in the Middle Ages (1964-84). In 1987, Professor Clagett noted of the Institute, "It always sustained my work so that I didn't ever have to stop...it's been for me the perfect place to come to. If you do real scholarship, you have justified your existence. I feel the Institute has been influential throughout the world. I hope I have influenced thought in my field."
While known for his genial manner and sense of humor, Professor Clagett also employed a serious and meticulous style in his research and was uncompromising in his careful translations and interpretations of ancient texts. He is perhaps best known for his landmark ten-tome, five-volume work, Archimedes in the Middle Ages, which was published over a period of twenty years. Edward Grant and John E. Murdoch noted in the Introduction to Mathematics and Its Applications to Science and Natural Philosophy in the Middle Ages: Essays in Honor of Marshall Clagett (1987): "The number of Archimedean texts edited with full critical apparatus is truly staggering. All are thoroughly analyzed and most are translated for the first time...[it is] a magnificent and enduring contribution to the history of science."
Born in Washington, DC in 1916, Professor Clagett began his undergraduate education in 1933 at the California Institute of Technology, transferring in 1935 to George Washington University. There he completed both his A.B. and a Master of Arts in 1937. In 1941, he received his Ph.D. in history from Columbia University, with a thesis in the history of science. From that same year until 1946, he served in the United States Navy, beginning his military career as an Ensign and completing it as a Lieutenant Commander, after which he returned to Columbia University as an instructor in history and the history of science.
Before his appointment to the Faculty of the Institute for Advanced Study, Professor Clagett served as professor of the History of Science, and later Vilas Research Professor, in the Department of History of Science at the University of Wisconsin between 1947 and 1964, and also was Director of the University's Institute for Research in the Humanities from 1959 to 1964. He was instrumental in making Wisconsin an important center for the study of the history of science, and in shaping critical thinking in the field.
Over the years, his work has been recognized with numerous awards. In 1981, he received the Alexandre Koyr� Medal of the International Academy of the History of Science for Archimedes in the Middle Ages. In 1995, he was awarded one of two newly-created Giovanni Dondi dall�Orologio European Prizes in the History of Science, Technology, and Industry, which is given in recognition of a lifetime of scholarship in the history of science. In presenting the 35th annual International Galileo Galilei Prize in 1996, given by the Award Foundation of the Italian Rotary for outstanding contributions by a foreign scholar to the study and diffusion of Italian culture, Professor Tristano Bolelli, President of the Award Foundation, said of Professor Clagett: "In his long and industrious scholarly life in the history of science he has drawn an exacting picture, rich and suggestive, of the European scientific and philosophical culture from the Duecento to Galileo, one in which he has amply and fittingly documented the essential contribution of Italian Civilization."
A fellow of the Medieval Academy of America and past president of the History of Science Society, Professor Clagett was a member and former vice-president of the American Philosophical Society. He also was a Member of the Deutsche Gesellschaft f�r Geschichte der Medizin, Naturwissenschaft und Technik, and the International Academy of the History of Science, where he also served as its Vice-President from 1968 to 1971.
Professor Clagett is survived by his wife, Sue Riley Clagett of Princeton, NJ; his daughter, Kathleen Williams of Towson, MD; two sons, Dennis Clagett of Nyon, Switzerland and Michael Clagett of Yardley, PA; a half-brother, Brice Clagett of Washington, D.C.; and five grandchildren, Mary Kate Di Tursi, of Troy, NY; Jay K.B. Williams, Jr., Marshall Clagett Williams and Michael Williams, of Towson, MD; and Emily Clagett of Yardley, PA.