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[Athena] Fwd: Roger Hahn Obituary

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  • From: DEMEULENAERE Christiane <christiane.demeulenaere AT>
  • To: Diffusion Réseau HST <theuth AT>, Diffusion-hist des techniques <athena AT>
  • Subject: [Athena] Fwd: Roger Hahn Obituary
  • Date: Wed, 24 Aug 2011 10:22:51 +0200
  • Mailscanner-null-check: 1314778823.36048@hoTIo6fsFTYvwS6GcwIV3g

-------- Message original -------- Sujet: Roger Hahn Obituary Date : Tue, 23 Aug 2011 11:24:28 -0500 De : H-France <h-france AT> Répondre à : h-france AT Pour : h-france <h-france AT>

Dear H-France,
I am writing to let you know that my husband, Historian of Science Roger Hahn, passed away unexpectedly on May 30th of this year.  In going through his mail, we found that he was subscribed to the H-France e-mails and wanted to send you a copy of his obituary and memorial announcement in the hopes that you might be able to send it out to your list or publish it.
Friends of Roger Hahn are invited to attend a Memorial to be held at 3:00 PM on Sunday, September 25, 2011, at the Faculty Club on the UC Berkeley Campus.
 Gifts in memory of Roger Hahn may be made to The Bancroft Library, History of Science and Technology Collections, UC Berkeley, or to “Friends of Cal History”, Chair, UC Department of History.  All gifts should indicate that they are to honor Roger Hahn. 
Should you have any questions, please feel free to contact me at any time.
 Yours sincerely,
 Ellen L. Hahn
ehahn AT
Berkeley — Roger Hahn, Emeritus Professor of History at the University of California, Berkeley, a leader in shaping the academic field of the History of Science, died unexpectedly on May 30 in New York City.

Now widely recognized as a significant field of study, the History of Science was an emerging discipline when Hahn, in 1953, was among the first students to graduate from Harvard College with majors in both Science (Physics) and History.

Through his studies at the École Pratique des Hautes Études, as a Fulbright Scholar, and then at Cornell University, where he earned his Ph.D., Hahn developed a keen interest in the relationship between science and society that marked his own career and helped form the field of study.

Moving away from the established approach of teaching scientific development as a series of isolated chronological discoveries, Hahn pursued an integrated view of the development of scientific ideas and institutions as reflective of the socio-political, philosophical, human and other dimensions of their times.

“He put his stamp on the field in a way that became a model” says Cathy Carson, UC Berkeley Associate Professor of the History of Science. “From the start, he cared for questions about science and society that have since become fashionable, and framed them with care, thought and deep academic grounding.”

One of his most notable and influential early works, “The Anatomy of a Scientific Institution. The Paris Academy of Sciences 1666-1803” (Berkeley, University of California Press, 1971) provides acomprehensive account of the elite Paris Academy of Sciences from its founding under French Controller General of Finance Jean-Baptiste Colbert to its dissolution as a royal institution during the French Revolution, and subsequent revision in the Napoleonic era. Articulating his view of science and scientific institutions in the context of their times, Hahn describes the Academy as “the anvil on which the often conflicting values of science and society are shaped into a visible form.”

Hahn was born in Paris, France, on Jan. 5, 1932. His family fled France to New York in 1941 to escape Nazi oppression. After graduating

magna cum laude from Harvard College in 1953 and earning an M.A.T. in Education from Harvard University the following year, Hahn later served in the U.S. Army, stationed at Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe (SHAPE), outside of Paris.

In 1961, Hahn accepted a position in the History Department at UC Berkeley. A consummate scholar, teacher and valued colleague, Hahn researched, published, taught and participated broadly in both UC and academic life for over 50 years.

“Hahn’s passing is a grievous loss to the campus community,” remarked Erich Gruen, Emeritus Professor of History and longtime colleague of Hahn. “He was unfailingly supportive and

considerate to younger colleagues, a gentle man who never demanded but always commanded respect. At department meetings his was an independent voice, consistently displaying sound, well-informed, and balanced judgment; never driven by ideology or inflexible opinion.”

Hahn’s academic interests frequently took him to Europe, where his fluency in five languages facilitated research throughout the continent. He maintained strong ties with scholars, libraries and academic institutions, and deepened his pre-war relationships with surviving family and friends. Hahn was decorated with the French Government’s high academic honor, Officier de l’Ordre des Palmes Académiques, for his promotion of cultural and academic exchange between France and the United States and for his classic study of the French Academy of Sciences.

Hahn is equally known for his work on the late 18

th and early 19th Century French scientist and statesman, Pierre Simon Laplace. As a graduate student, Hahn had noted the lack of a definitivebiography of Laplace, one of the greatest scientists of the Enlightenment and “France’s Sir Isaac Newton.” The Laplace ancestral estate had burned in the early 20th Century, destroying most of his personal papers and library. Undaunted, Hahn embarked on a life-long quest to uncover Laplace’s correspondence with scientists and colleagues throughout Europe, thereby reconstructing the evolution of Laplace’s thinking and discoveries. Working like a detective, Hahn followed leads that took him to the dusty recesses of innumerable libraries, archives and personal collections –once discovering important documents in a cardboard box that had been “filed” in the men’s room of a Parisian library.

The publication of Hahn’s much-anticipated biography of Laplace, “Pierre Simon Laplace 1749- 1827: A Determined Scientist” (Editions Gallimard, 2004 – French version; Harvard University Press, 2005 - English), was widely acclaimed. Neither did it mark the end of his insightful portrayaland research. At his death, Hahn’s work on the collected letters of Laplace was nearing publication (Brepols, Belgium).

In the early 1970s, when former Bancroft Director James D. Hart proposed the establishment of a History of Science Collection, Hahn became its unofficial curator and Special Assistant to the Director. He pursued rare books, manuscripts and the personal papers of notable scientists obtaining important additions to the Collection. Most importantly Hahn

was largely responsible for arranging the acquisition of the remaining Laplace papers. According to current Bancroft Deputy Director Peter Hanff, “Hahn had a keen, ongoing interest in the antiquarian trade in book and manuscripts in the History of Science. He read catalogues and made referrals continually, even in his retirement.” Hahn served on the Council of the Friends and also served on the Advisory Board of the Bancroft’s Regional Oral History Office, gathering and preserving oral histories from important scientific figures in the Bay Area.

Hahn was deeply committed to teaching as well as advising his numerous Post-Graduate, Graduate, and Undergraduate students. His courses covered the broad sweep of the History of Science—from Aristotle to the Atom Bomb. Among others, Hahn’s animated lectures and seminars on Newton, Galileo and Laplace left a lasting impression. One of his most innovative projects was the creation of an interdisciplinary course on Renaissance Engineers, co-taught by four UC Berkeley professors: an historian, an architect and two engineers.

Always an active participant in university and academic life, Hahn was a founding member andserved as Director of the Office for History of Science and Technology at Berkeley from 1993 to 1998. He also served as co-chair of the French Studies Program from 1987 to 1990, and chair of the Selection Committee for the France-Berkeley Fund. In France, he held appointments at the Collège de France, the Sorbonne and the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales. Throughout his career Hahn served on numerous committees of the Department of History, the School of Letters and Sciences, the Academic Senate, the University of California System, and the Office of the President.

“Roger was the perfect colleague. We worked and taught together closely for thirty years without an argument,” said John Heilbron, an Emeritus Professor of History and a longtime friend and colleague of Hahn’s. “He was also a very good academic citizen; interested, friendly, knowledgeable, challenging—the sort of person, now increasingly rare, who helps to make the university greater than the sum of its parts.”

Among Hahn’s many honors and appointments, he was twice named a National Science Foundation Fellow and was named to the Council of the History of Science Society. He was elected a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and member of the Académie Internationale d’Histoire des Sciences, serving as its Vice President in 2005. Hahn was also a Fellow of the American Council of Learned Societies and

served as president of the American Society forEighteenth-Century Studies and the West Coast History of Science Society. He was an active participant and a member of the Advisory Council for Humanities West.

“Above all, Roger was a true scholar, an excellent teacher, a wonderful, warm human being with a fine sense of humor, and a dear friend,” said James Casey, a UC Berkeley Engineering Professor who was collaborating with Hahn on a publication concerning the theory of plasticity of metals. “His deep study of history had taught him to be philosophical about life, people, and politics. He had a realistic, balanced, view of humanity.”

Roger Hahn is survived by his wife, Ellen Hahn of Berkeley, California, daughters Elisabeth Hahn of New York City, and Sophie Hahn of Berkeley, her husband Eric Bjerkholt and their children Emil, Simon and Sarah Bjerkholt. He is also survived by his brother, Pierre M. Hahn of San Francisco, and his family.

Friends of Roger Hahn are invited to attend a Memorial to be held at 3:00 PM on Sunday, September 25, 2011, at the Faculty Club on the UC Berkeley Campus.

Gifts in memory of Roger Hahn may be made to The Bancroft Library, History of Science and Technology Collections, UC Berkeley, or to “Friends of Cal History”, Chair, UC Department of History. All gifts should indicate that they are to honor Roger Hahn.

  • [Athena] Fwd: Roger Hahn Obituary, DEMEULENAERE Christiane, 08/24/2011

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