Ohio Historical Society Honors Illustrious Oberlin Graduate
OBERLIN, OHIO – The Ohio Historical Society will commemorate the 100th anniversary of the birth of Oberlin alumnus Willard Van Orman Quine (1908-2000) with the dedication of a historical plaque on the Oberlin College campus, one of several celebrations honoring the internationally renowned mathematician and philosopher worldwide this year.
Quine, who graduated in 1930, is credited with making major contributions to mathematical logic, set theory, philosophy of language, and ontology. “He was the most distinguished American philosopher/logician of the second half of the 20th century,” says Al MacKay, Oberlin provost and a professor of philosophy.
MacKay will officiate at the dedication, which will take place Wednesday, June 25, as part of the Oberlin College and community’s 175th Anniversary Celebration. The program will be held at 5 p.m. in Room 106 of the King Building, 10 N. Professor St., followed by the installation of the plaque on the southeast grounds of King. Cosponsors are the Ohio Historical Society, the Oberlin College Office of Development, and the Oberlin Heritage Center.
In addition to MacKay, others taking part will be Quine’s son, Douglas Quine; Warren Goldfarb, Walter Beverly Pearson Professor of Modern Mathematics and Mathematical Logic at Harvard University; Tom Ricketts ‘71, professor of philosophy at the University of Pittsburgh; and J.D. Britton, a representative of the Ohio Historical Society. Also present will be Chad Miller, a graduate student at Youngstown State University whose essay, Why Quine Matters to Me, prompted the Ohio Historical Society to honor Quine.
A native of Akron, Ohio, Quine graduated from Oberlin with a degree in mathematics and a minor in the philosophy of math. He earned a PhD in philosophy in 1932 at Harvard University, where he studied the foundations of mathematical logic with eminent philosopher Alfred North Whitehead. Quine joined Harvard’s philosophy department in 1936. During WWII, he served in the United States Navy in military intelligence, reaching the rank of lieutenant commander.
A prolific scholar, Quine was the Edgar Pierce Professor of Philosophy at Harvard from 1956-1978. He published 22 books in English and one in Portuguese. His major works are the essay Two Dogmas of Empiricism and the book Word and Object. He received numerous international honors, including the 1993 Rolf Schock Prize in Stockholm, the 1996 Kyoto Prize in Tokyo, and an honorary degree in 1955 from Oberlin and from 37 other institutions of higher learning.
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