Morton White (1917-2016), one of America’s most distinguished philosophers and historians of ideas, died at the age of 99 on May 27 at Stonebridge at Montgomery in Skillman, New Jersey. He was Professor Emeritus in the School of Historical Studies at the Institute for Advanced Study, where he served as professor from 1970 until he retired in 1987.
White is credited with broadening the scope of topics traditionally studied by philosophers, with incisive analysis in the realms of epistemology and social and political philosophy. In his philosophy of holistic pragmatism, he bridged the positivistic gulf between analytic and synthetic truth as well as that between moral and scientific belief. He maintained that philosophy of science is not philosophy enough, thereby encouraging the examination of other aspects of civilized life — especially art, history, law, politics, and religion — and their relations with science.
“A most formidable intellect, White was a philosopher who was able to reach out from his specialisms in epistemology and from the narrow language analysis preoccupations of much post–World War II American philosophy, in a way few others could, to write usefully about and contribute with force and insight on a vast range of historical, legal, social, and cultural issues,” said Jonatha Israel, Andrew W. Mellon Professor in the School of Historical Studies at the Institute. “This made him a unique asset in the large and small discussions regularly held in the Institute’s School of Historical Studies.”
Director of the Institute and Leon Levy Professor Robbert Dijkgraaf added, “Morty left a deep and meaningful imprint as a philosopher and intellectual historian, driven by his keen curiosity and intrepid spirit. He will be greatly missed here at the Institute.”
Born in New York City on April 29, 1917, White was influenced early on by his upbringing on the Lower East Side, where his father, Robert Weisberger, owned a shoe store frequented by neighborhood politicians. The daily exposure to lively exchanges of ideas and commentary inspired him to enroll at the age of 15 at the City College of New York to study philosophy. After completing his bachelor’s degree, he was accepted as a graduate student at Columbia University in 1936, where he obtained his AM in 1938 and then his PhD in philosophy in 1942.
White taught at both City College and Columbia, the University of Pennsylvania, and Harvard. His first appointment as a Member in 1953 was encouraged by the Institute’s then Director J. Robert Oppenheimer, who was seeking a scholar in American intellectual history. Oppenheimer and White had known each other from Harvard and had mutual admiration for each other’s work, despite their divergent views on analytic philosophy and related topics. White, in contrast to his philosopher colleagues at Harvard, publicly supported Oppenheimer as an “intellectual force for good” and appreciated the environment that he created for historians at the Institute. In his memoir, A Philosopher’s Story, he remarked, “From the moment I first came to the Institute in 1953, I longed to be there forever. The idyllic surroundings, the conveniently close residential quarters, the company of distinguished colleagues, and ideal working conditions made it seem like an academic heaven.” White’s three visits as a Member enabled work on three books: Toward Reunion in Philosophy, which is considered a milestone in analytic philosophy; Foundations of Historical Knowledge; and Science and Sentiment in America: Philosophical Thought from Jonathan Edwards to John Dewey. His influence on the field has been broad and deep through his numerous books, articles, and critical reviews. One of his earliest books, Social Thought in America: The Revolt Against Formalism, spurred a powerful response and dialogue across the field and has since become a classic text in American intellectual history. White’s later books include From a Philosophical Point of View: Selected Studies and The Question of Free Will: A Holistic View.
He was predeceased by Lucia Perry White in 1996, and by his second wife, Helen Starobin White, in 2012. He is survived by his sons, Nicholas of Cologne, Germany, and Stephen of Somerville, Massachusetts, five grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren.
Written by Christine Ferrara, Director of Communications, Institute for Advanced Study.
A complete version of the obituary is available at www.ias.edu/news/morton-white-obituary.
Gillett Griffin, curator of Pre-Columbian and Native American art, emeritus, at the Princeton University Art Museum, died of natural causes at his home in Princeton on June 9. He was 87.
Griffin’s passion for collecting began more than 60 years ago while he was a student at Yale University School of Art, where he studied painting and graphic design and earned a bachelor’s degree in 1951. He wandered into a New Haven junk shop and purchased a tiny ceramic head for 25 cents. Showing it to George Kubler, a renowned professor of art history at Yale, he learned that the head came from the Valley of Mexico and dated to before 400 B.C.
So began a lifetime of collecting that would later inform his scholarship and teaching.
Griffin came to Princeton in 1952 as curator of graphic arts in the Princeton University Library’s Rare Books and Special Collections division, a position he held until 1966. In 1957 he took a leave of absence to design books for Princeton University Press and write articles on the history of printmaking and related graphic themes.
After spending a year in Mexico — where he was the co-discoverer of cave paintings by the Olmec people, identified as the oldest paintings ever seen in the New World, dating between 800 and 400 B.C. — he returned to Princeton in 1967 to join the museum at the invitation of then Director Patrick Kelleher. Griffin steadily added to his own and the museum’s collections, and gave much of his own collection to the museum. These gifts number in the thousands, according to James Steward, the Nancy A. Nasher-David J. Haemisegger, Class of 1976, Director of the museum. Griffin retired in 2005, after 38 years with the museum.
“Gillett is principally responsible for having shaped for Princeton what is widely regarded as one of the world’s greatest collections of the art of the ancient Americas — in an age in which it was still possible to do so,” Steward said. “He is an essential figure in our history. But he has also been a great friend — a warm, generous, kind man with a sly wit and a ready story. Gillett leaves an indelible mark on Princeton, and on all of us.”
“Gillett’s art collection was exceptional both due to his keen aesthetic eye and his constant consideration of objects’ potential role for teaching,” said Bryan Just, the Peter Jay Sharp, Class of 1952, curator and lecturer in the art of the Ancient Americas at the museum. “Since my arrival at Princeton about a decade ago, Gillett has been an enthusiastic supporter of my work to continue his legacy of promoting ancient American art and Princeton’s place in the field.”
Griffin worked with successive museum directors to develop one of the world’s most important collections of ancient Olmec and Maya art. The result of two conferences on Maya pottery and iconography at Princeton he organized in the 1980s is the book Maya Iconography, which he co-edited with Elizabeth Benson, published by Princeton University Press. Griffin wrote widely for publications ranging from printing and graphic arts to National Geographic.
His trips to Mexico helped connect Princeton to several important endeavors. For example, in 1973, while serving as a guide and adviser to Princeton filmmakers Hugh and Suzanne Johnston on an expedition to film a WNET (PBS) special on the Maya, he and his team rediscovered Temple B — an archetypal Maya palace structure in a dense area of the Yucatan jungle called Río Bec — which had eluded searchers since it has been lost after its discovery in 1912.
Alfred Bush, curator of Western Americana and historic maps, emeritus, at the Princeton University Library, and a lifelong friend of Griffin’s, commended not only Griffin’s expert eye but also his warm personality. “His friendships with scholars, collectors, and dealers in ancient American art, and his ability to bring all these together in a congenial social setting became legendary. His [former] house on Stockton Street was the meeting place of all kinds of people with interests in the indigenous art of the Americas,” Bush said.
At Princeton, Griffin also taught courses on pre-Columbian art. When Mary Miller, a 1975 alumna, approached him to be her adviser for her senior thesis, he suggested that together they mount an exhibition of ceramic figures from Jaina, the burial island off the coast of the Yucatan. It was one of the first major exhibitions of Pre-Columbian art at the museum and Miller’s thesis was the published catalogue.
Miller, the Sterling Professor of History of Art at Yale and a leading scholar of ancient American art, said: “How fortunate I am to have known [Gillett], and to have had my passion sparked by his. Ever fond of of puns and word play, were Gillett here, he would be making good sport of us all and hoping that we would visit the Princeton University Art Museum, to see the playful world of ancient art that he assembled and generously gave to the museum so that others would share his joy.”
Even before arriving as a freshman at Princeton, David Stuart, a 1989 alumnus and the Linda and David Schele Professor of Mesoamerican Art and Writing at the University of Texas-Austin, already knew Griffin. At age 17, Stuart — the son of George Stuart, staff archaeologist, editor and Maya scholar at National Geographic magazine for 40 years — had already made a name for himself in the field and gave a talk at Princeton’s conference on early Maya iconography. Calling Griffin “a wonderful mentor,” Stuart said that when he was a sophomore, Griffin arranged for Stuart to teach a course in Maya hieroglyphs in the Department of Art and Archaeology; Griffin audited the course.
Stuart also remembered gatherings for students at Griffin’s house. “My first time over he asked me what I’d like to drink. I sheepishly asked for a Coke, and three minutes later Gillett hands me a soft drink in a painted kylix — an ancient Greek drinking cup from the sixth century B.C.! This is a great example of how Gillett saw how art could ‘live’ in the present,” said Stuart.
Matthew Robb, a 1994 alumnus who joined the Fowler Museum at the University of California-Los Angeles as chief curator on June 13, took Griffin’s survey classes on the Andes and Mesoamerica. “Wow, did he pack the slides in — I’d say it was in the hundreds. Image after image after image — and he knew them all. It was dazzling. Gillett taught me how to see art,” said Robb, who previously served as curator of the arts of the Americas at the de Young, one of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco.
Born in Brooklyn, New York, on June 22, 1928, Griffin grew up in Greenwich, Connecticut.
While attending Deerfield Academy, he developed an interest in and began to collect New England children’s books printed before 1846. In 1951, the same year he graduated from Yale, he wrote, illustrated, and printed A Mouse’s Tale, which was nominated one of the Fifty Books of the Year for its design by the American Institute of Graphic Arts.
Griffin also maintained close ties to the greater Princeton community during the more than 60 years he lived in town and was an accomplished painter and portraitist. A retrospective exhibition, “Heads and Tales: Portraits with Legends by Gillett Good Griffin,” was mounted earlier this year (January 3-March 31) at the Princeton Public Library, co-sponsored by the Arts Council of Princeton. In 2014, the arts council mounted a solo exhibition, “The Eyes Have It,” a collection of paintings, drawings, and sketches from Griffin’s field notes and diaries.
But what many of Griffin’s close friends remember as most remarkable was Griffin’s friendship with Albert Einstein. According to Bush, while working at the Princeton University Library, Gillett befriended a Czech refugee and fellow librarian, Johanna Fantova, who had known Einstein in Berlin and Prague in his younger days. When she fled to America at the end of the World War II, Einstein suggested she consider library work. It was 1953. Fantova introduced Griffin into the Einstein household at 112 Mercer St., where Einstein lived with his stepdaughter Margot, a sculptor. Griffin was 25 years old; Einstein was 74.
“His unpretentious social ease, willingness to play at children’s puzzles with Einstein himself, his sense of humor (especially puns), his interest in baroque music, all endeared him to Einstein,” Bush said. “As an artist he had much in common with Margot. He was soon given open access to the Einstein house by Dukas, Einstein’s secretary, and the true keeper of the door.”
Over the years, Griffin accrued many personal belongings of Einstein’s — including the famous snapshot of Einstein sitting on his porch wearing fuzzy slippers, his compass, a pipe, and several puzzles — which he eventually donated to the Historical Society of Princeton. In 2006, after the movie “I.Q.”, starring Walter Matthau as Einstein, was filmed in and around Princeton, Griffin asked Robert and Henry Landau, co-owners of Landau’s store on Nassau Street, if they would dedicate a small section of their store to exhibit some of Griffin’s Einstein memorabilia. They readily agreed.
Griffin is survived by Betsy Cole Roe, his first cousin, once removed; her children, Gillett Cole II (named after Gillett Griffin), and Trip Noll III; and several other cousins, and their children.
Contributions in memory of Griffin may be made to the Princeton University Art Museum.
Written by Jamie Saxon
Caroline Rosenblum Moseley
Caroline died unexpectedly but peacefully at the University Medical Center Princeton-Plainsboro on June 18, 2016. Caroline was the daughter of the late Dr. Charles Rosenblum and Fanny Rosenblum. She was also predeceased by her infant brother, Hugh. Caroline attended Princeton public schools and Miss Fine’s School (now Princeton Day School) and received her BA with high honors in English Literature from Radcliffe College (now Harvard University). She later earned a Masters Degree in American Folklore and Folk Life from the University of Pennsylvania. Caroline was a writer and editor at Princeton University and the Institute for Advanced Studies for many years and served as editor of The Journal of Economic Perspectives.
Caroline was well known in Princeton for her musical contributions, teaching guitar to fellow folk singers at the Princeton Adult School for over 40 years, singing with the University Chapel Choir for over 15 years, performing at gatherings at the Princeton Public Library and events such as Communiversity and First Night, to say nothing of many lively gatherings of the Princeton Folk Music Society at the Moseley home. She shared her academic and musical talents outside of Princeton as well, inspiring many with her unique expertise on the music of the Revolutionary and Civil Wars through lectures and performances at various universities and historic sites.
Caroline was married to Roger V. Moseley, MD, her husband of 60 years and best friend for 63. Caroline and Roger enjoyed traveling far and wide, with family whenever possible. In 1999, their shared sense of purposeful adventure led to a three month stint at the Himalayan Rescue Association Aid Post, at 12,000 feet in Manang, Nepal, providing much needed health care to villagers as well as trekkers.
For all her academic and musical talents, Caroline’s greatest joy and reason for being was her family. In addition to her husband, Caroline/Nana leaves her son Richard (Joanne Gusweiler); daughter Catherine Clark (Bruce); son Stephen (Whitney Ross); son Christopher (Michelle Tarsney); and ten grandchildren: Eric, Michael, Carley, Will, Sarah, Alex, Ross, Parker, Aileen, and Caroline V.
Caroline was renowned for her ready humor and witty repartee. Her love of the natural world, music, books, and language, and her generosity and playful spirit, will be carried forward by her very lucky family. The family thanks the many medical professionals at UMCPP who provided good old fashioned Tender Loving Care not only to Caroline but to the family.
A memorial service will be scheduled in the fall. Memorial contributions may be made in Caroline’s name to the Princeton Public Library.
Deirdre O’Hara, 54, of Warren, N.J., passed away on Monday, June 20, 2016 at her residence.
Born in Staten Island, N.Y. on September 26, 1961, Deirdre was a graduate of West Windsor-Plainsboro High School. She worked for the State of New Jersey, Department of Human Services, for more than 30 years. She was an avid traveler and had been to over 80 countries and all seven continents. She was also an avid bicycle rider and a fan of old movies.
Beloved daughter of Ann O’Hara and the late John Patrick O’Hara, she is
survived by her loving brother, John O’Hara and her niece, Erin O’Hara.
A Memorial Mass will be celebrated at 10 a.m. on Friday, June 24, 2016 at St. David the King RC Church, 1 New Village Road, Princeton Junction.
In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made in Deirdre’s memory to Cathedral High School, 350 E. 56th Street, New York, NY 10022.
Arrangements are under the direction of the A.S. Cole Son & Co. Funeral Home, 22 North Main Street, Cranbury, NJ.
Intelligent, modest, and kind, Dr. Gordon Kemp was known as a true gentleman. He was quietly passionate about classical music, exceptional wine, afternoon naps, and above all, his family. Our world lost a wonderful man on June 14, 2016 at age 83.
Gordon was born December 12, 1932 and was raised in New Jersey. He graduated from Scotch Plains-Fanwood High School and earned his Bachelor’s Degree in bacteriology from Lehigh University. He later earned his doctorate in microbiology at Rutgers University. Gordon Married Jo’Anne Butler in 1958 and settled in Princeton. In 1984 they moved to Mason’s Island, Mystic, Conn.
Gordon was a Colonel in the U.S. Army reserves, trained in artillery at Fort Sill Oklahoma in 1955, led troops in firefighting in the Uinta Mountains in Utah and is a veteran of the Korean war. Gordon graduated from the U.S. Army War College in 1979. On June 5, 2016, an Army representative presented Gordon with an honor pinning to thank him for his service to our country.
During his career, Gordon worked at American Cyanamid and then Pfizer. During his later years, he formed and led an international committee that established standards for safety in animal antibiotics.
A lifelong learner, Gordon was constantly reading new works of literature and biographies, listening to audio books, and watching the latest documentaries on PBS. He enjoyed playing bridge and traveling with his brother Bruce and his wife Ellen. Their adventures took them each year to Washington, D.C. during “cherry
blossom time” to visit with his younger brother Tom, and to places around the globe. Alaska, Hawaii, New Zealand, and Italy were among his many destinations. Gordon’s favorite place to visit was Barbados. “Pop-pop and Grannie” (Jo’Anne) organized many family trips to the beautiful island, which remain among the very special memories shared by his children, grandchildren, and his brothers.
Gordon is survived by daughter, Kerri Kemp of Mystic, Conn.; son, Duncan Kemp of Fairport, N.Y.; and son Peter Kemp of Groton, Conn.; grandchildren, Ryan Mooney, Megan Mooney, Jeffrey Kemp and Matthew Kemp; brothers, Bruce (Ellen) Kemp and Thomas Kemp; sister-in-law Nancy Bower; along with many nieces, a nephew, and friends. He is predeceased by his wife, Jo’Anne Butler Kemp.
Friends are invited to a memorial service and a celebration of Gordon’s life on Sunday, June 26 at 1 p.m. at Mason’s Island Yacht Club, Yacht Club Rd, Mystic, Conn. 06355.
In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions could be made to WGBH (Boston Public Radio).