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Eminent Philosopher

Jaakko Hintikka, 86

College of Arts & Sciences professor emeritus of philosophy, on August 12, 2015.

One of the world’s eminent philosophers and logicians, Hintikka was born in Vantaa, Finland, in 1929, and educated at the University of Helsinki, where he earned a PhD in philosophy in 1956.

In 1990, he joined the BU philosophy faculty, where his expertise in game-theoretical semantics and epistemic logic (the logic of knowledge and belief) brought students from many disciplines to his classes.

“With his help and industry we attracted and educated four generations of PhD students,” says Juliet Floyd, a CAS pro­fessor of philosophy. “His work is known to members of the mathematics and computer science departments, as well as our linguists. His knowledge and experience drew all of us into enjoyable and challenging conversation.”

Hintikka earned numerous honors during his career, including a 1979 Guggenheim Fellowship and the 2005 Rolf Schock Prize in logic and philosophy from the Swedish Academy, an award comparable to the Nobel Prize. He published more than 30 books and hundreds of scholarly articles.

“Although he had a world­wide reputation and had attained something akin to hero status in Finland, he was philosophically one of the most generous colleagues one could imagine, very open to collaboration with others and to new lines of research,” says Allen Speight, a CAS associate professor and chair of the philosophy department.—Mara Sassoon

Robert L. Saitz

Robert L. Saitz was an expert in applied linguistics and kinesics, or gestures. Photo by BU Photography

A Passion for Languages

Robert L. Saitz (CAS’49), 86

College of Arts & Sciences professor emeritus of English, on March 12, 2015.

Saitz earned an AB from BU in 1949, an MA from the University of Iowa in 1950, and a PhD in English and linguistics from the University of Wisconsin, Madison, in 1955.

With his passion for languages, Saitz was an expert in applied linguistics and kinesics, or gestures, who “found humor in the way people would say things and even in the crazy rules of English,” says his son, Richard Saitz (CAS’87, MED’87), a BU School of Public Health professor and chair of community health sciences and a School of Medicine professor of medicine. “He married my mom, who was primarily a Spanish speaker, and he seemed to really enjoy people who spoke other languages.”

Saitz was dedicated to teaching English to non-native speakers, and was the founder and first presi­dent of the professional organization Massachusetts Educators of English Lan­guage Learners (MATSOL), as well as a founding member of Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL).

He published more than 25 scholarly books. “We would meet to discuss a possible book project,” says Francine Stieglitz, a retired lecturer from the CAS Writing Program who collaborated with Saitz on seven books. “I’d talk out what I had in mind. Bob would take notes in pencil—he always wrote in pencil—and the next day, he’d have an outline of the book.”

Saitz joined the BU faculty in 1962 and is remembered as a dedicated professor. “The door to his office was always open,” Stieglitz says. “Students would often drop in for help or just to chat. Sometimes they would invite him to dinner at a Chinese restaurant when the semester was over.”

At BU, Saitz created the program that became the School of Education master’s Teaching English as a Second Language program, and he founded and directed the Boston Area Seminar for International Students, an intensive English program that is now BU’s Center for English Language & Orientation Programs.

“BU lost an amazing scholar,” says Saitz’s former student Christina Michaud (SED’02,’16), a CAS senior lecturer who teaches his class, Linguistic Problems in the Teaching of English as a Foreign Language. “I cannot fill his shoes, of course, but for one night a week I can try.”—Jennifer Bates (COM’16)

Abner Shimony

Abner Shimony’s research transcended disciplinary boundaries and literary genres. Photo by BU Photography

Physicist and Philosopher

Abner Shimony, 87

College of Arts & Sciences professor emeritus of philosophy and of physics, on August 8, 2015.

Shimony’s research transcended disciplinary boundaries and literary genres. He made lasting contributions to the areas of inductive logic, the philosophy of C. S. Peirce, the quantum measurement problem, and Bell’s theorem.

Shimony earned a joint degree in philosophy and mathematics at Yale, a master’s in philosophy at the University of Chicago, and a PhD in philosophy at Yale. He earned a second doctorate, in physics, at Princeton University.

After arriving at Boston University, Shimony published arguably the most important physics article of his career, “Proposed experiment to test local hidden-variable theories.” The article, coauthored by his BU graduate student Michael Horne (GRS’67,’70) and two other graduate students (John Clauser at Columbia and Richard Holt at Harvard), derived a new form of Bell’s inequality.

Among his many contributions to the field of philosophy, Shimony was one of the most persuasive proponents of epistemological naturalism. He also introduced the term “experimental metaphysics” (the use of scientific experiments to investigate metaphysical questions) and contributed to its study.

When he retired from BU in 1994, a session of the Boston Colloquium was organized in his honor, resulting in two volumes: Experimental Meta­physics and Potentiality, Entanglement, and Passion-at-a-Distance.—Alisa Bokulich and Don Howard (CAS’69)

Read more at Alisa Bokulich is a CAS associate professor of philosophy, and Don Howard is a University of Notre Dame professor of philosophy.