Brian Easlea obituary

Publié le par The Guardian - Mike Hales

The Guardianpublished 15/01/2013 at 17:53 GMT by Mike Hales

My former mentor Brian Easlea, who has died aged 76, was an internationalist, a teacher and an advocate for a better world, whose scholarly and groundbreaking work was influential in many countries all over the world.

Brian Easlea
Born in the village of Happisburgh on the Norfolk coast, Brian had an eye for detail that made him an avid birdwatcher. As a young man he gained BSc and PhD degrees in mathematical physics from University College London, studied under the Nobel prizewinner Niels Bohr as a postgraduate and, in the early 1960s, studied and lectured, first at Bohr's world-renowned Institute for Theoretical Physics in Copenhagen and then in the US at the University of Pittsburgh.

He joined the University of Sussex in 1964 to lecture in theoretical physics but his life was transformed visiting colleagues in Brazil. Grotesque social and economic inequalities, and the military regime's brutal repression, moved him profoundly. As a theoretical physicist, he was also aware of the grave ethical and political concerns of eminent scientists such as Bohr and Albert Einstein, and was haunted by the idea of nuclear warfare. Returning to Sussex, he transferred from physics to history and social studies of science, a field itself in upheaval in the late 1960s.

After devouring quantities of literature across all disciplines, he created an influential undergraduate "arts/science" course, Principles and Perspectives of Science. Brian's lectures attracted hundreds of students from all parts of the university. He later wrote a ground-breaking book, Liberation and the Aims of Science: An Essay on Obstacles to the Building of a Beautiful World (1973).

In 1980 he published Witch Hunting, Magic and the New Philosophy: An Introduction to Debates of the Scientific Revolution 1450-1750 (described by the historian Christopher Hill as a work that all historians ought to read) and this was followed by Science and Sexual Oppression: Patriarchy's Confrontation with Woman and Nature (1981). Brian's important work Fathering the Unthinkable: Masculinity, Scientists and the Nuclear Arms Race (1983) brought his critique of sexual politics and scientific reason home to his original field of study.

Brian retired in 1987. He was deeply attached to the natural world and returned to his early love of birds, keeping a concerned eye on the ones inhabiting his local park, but also visiting Australia, Asia and South America in the company of birdwatchers. In 2008 he published Birdwatching at the Seaside – Living with Peregrines and Other Birds in a Sussex Coastal City.

Brian is survived by his wife Kimi, brother Chris and sister Joan.

Publié dans Avis de décès

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