Recent Division of the Social Sciences obituaries.
Leszek Kolakowski, 1927–2009
Leszek Kolakowski, Professor Emeritus in the John U. Nef Committee on Social Thought and in Philosophy, died July 17 in his home in Oxford, England. He was 81.
A philosopher who helped inspire the fall of communism, Kolakowski was a member of the University faculty from 1981 until his retirement in 1994.
A professor in Poland before being expelled for political reasons in 1968, Kolakowski was the author of 30 books on philosophy and Marxism, including Main Currents of Marxism, a three-volume critical analysis of Karl Marx’s impact on the history of ideas. Kolakowski received a John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Prize in 1983. The foundation recognized him for his exhaustive, critical analysis of Marxism and for his published work, including what he had written about strife-torn Poland. In 1983 he also received the Erasmus Prize, given annually by a Dutch foundation to recognize important cultural, social, or sociological contributions to Europe. In 1986 he presented the Jefferson Lecture in the Humanities, the nation's highest honor for achievement in the field.
His book Modernity on Endless Trial (1990) earned Kolakowski the Gordon J. Laing Award from the University of Chicago Press in 1992. The Laing Prize honors one book each year written by a faculty member at the University and published by the Press. “In these essays Kolakowski uses his tremendous erudition to speak, not to specialists, but to the widest possible audience concerned with the future of reason and civilized discourse," said Morris Philipson, then director of the Press, in presenting the honor.
“Many philosophers today are trying to do the same thing, but they lack Kolakowski's wit, style, and, above all, his compassion born out of personal experiences with the forces of unreason. Kolakowski shows that a great philosopher can communicate successfully to the thoughtful general reader,” Philipson said.
Modernity on Endless Trial is a collection of Kolakowski's essays and addresses, written between 1973 and 1986, which delve into some of the most intellectually rigorous questions of contemporary times. The writings cover the nature and limits of modernity, Christianity in the modern world, politics and ideology, and the question of the claim to knowledge of the human sciences. In 2003 the Library of Congress awarded Kolakowski a $1 million John W. Kluge Prize for lifetime achievement in the humanities and social sciences. In making the honor, the library noted that in the 1980s, even though he was abroad, his writings against communism became an inspiration for Solidarity, the Polish protest movement that eventually ousted the communist regime. Kolakowski was the first person to receive the Kluge Prize, which was established to honor accomplishments in fields not covered by the Nobel Prize, such as anthropology, history, philosophy, and religion.
Born in Poland, Kolakowski received his PhD from Warsaw University in 1953. He joined the faculty there and became chairman of the section of history of philosophy before he was expelled from Poland.
He was visiting professor at McGill University and the University of California, Berkeley, before becoming a senior research fellow at All Souls College, Oxford, a position he continued to hold after his appointment to the Chicago faculty.
Paul Hoover Bowman, PhD’51, 1914–2008
Paul Hoover Bowman, of Lakeview Village, Lenexa, Kansas, died at age 94 on December 5, 2008. Born in Philadelphia, Bowman graduated from Bridgewater College before returning to his native city to pursue his interests in religion and psychology. In 1938 he received a BD from Crozer Theological Seminary and an MA in psychology from the University of Pennsylvania. He earned his PhD in clinical psychology from the University of Chicago in 1951.
After teaching at the University of Louisville, he directed a ten-year study for the University called the Community Youth Development Project, which endeavored to prevent maladjustment and develop special talents in children living in Quincy, Illinois. Bowman then became executive director of the Institute for Community Studies in Kansas City. He retired in 1981.
Robert S. Zimmer, AM’49, PhD’50, 1924–2009
Robert Spitzer Zimmer of Williamsburg, Virginia, died on Monday, October 26, 2009. A native of West Seneca, New York, Zimmer was a veteran of World War II. He served in the 22nd Tank Battalion of the 11th Armored Division during the Battle of the Bulge and helped liberate Mauthausen concentration camp in Austria. After graduating from Brockport State College in 1947, he received his PhD in education from the University of Chicago and joined the United States Air Force Reserve. Zimmer was the founding president of three colleges: Allegany College of Maryland in Cumberland, Maryland; Kankakee Community College in Kankakee, Illinois; and Passaic County Community College in Paterson, New Jersey. He then returned to full-time USAF service at the Pentagon. Zimmer was instrumental in gaining accreditation for the Community College of the Air Force and also served as a professor at the National War College at Fort Lesley J. McNair in Washington, D.C. He retired in 1981 as a colonel in the Air Force Reserve.