Ruth Barcan Marcus, who made significant advances in the traditionally male-dominated field of logic, has passed away at the age of 90.
The New York Times reports that Marcus broke gender barriers in her area of philosophical study.
Because of its affinities with mathematics and the hard sciences — disciplines historically unwelcoming to women — logic had long been one of philosophy’s most swaggering strains. For a woman of Professor Marcus’s generation to elbow her way into the field, then dominated by titans like Willard Van Orman Quine, Rudolf Carnap and Kurt Gödel, was almost unheard of.
“The rest of philosophy became less male dominated, less macho, more quickly than logic,” Stephen Neale, distinguished professor of philosophy at the City University of New York Graduate Center, said in a telephone interview. “She was working in a field which was really run by these giants.”
Although the paper eventually trumpeted Marcus' achievements, the Times came under fire for not initially publishing an obituary of Marcus. In a post on the American Association of University Women's blog, Gloria L. Blackwell noted:
After 1947 AAUW American Fellow and Yale professor emeritus Ruth Barcan Marcus passed away on February 19 at the age of 90, her colleagues at Yale were outraged that the New York Times initially did not publish her obituary. Some thought that Marcus, a preeminent philosopher and logician for more than 60 years, was the victim of the Times’ overall lack of coverage of women in its obituary section. They weighed in through letters to the editor and blog posts, and the Times finally published her obituary on March 13 without acknowledging the maelstrom of feedback.
Image via the University of California Irving Library