May Brodbeck

Honored by:The Philosophy Department
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May Brodbeck was born in Newark, New Jersey on July 26, 1917. She died in California on August 2, 1983. She earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in chemistry from New York University in 1941. She received her Master of Arts degree in 1945 and the Ph.D. degree in 1947 from the University of Iowa.

During the period between 1941 and 1945, she taught high school chemistry, worked in industry, and participated on the Manhattan project. After receiving her Ph.D. under the directorship of Gustov Bergmann at Iowa, she went to the University of Minnesota’s department of philosophy, which she later chaired from 1967 to 1970. In 1972 she became Dean of the Graduate School at Minnesota. In 1944 she returned to the University of Iowa as Carver Professor of Philosophy and Vice President for Academic Affairs and Dean of the Graduate School. She retired from her administrative position in 1981, and from her academic one in 1983.

She first published a number of technical papers in the philosophy of science. This was followed by a monograph "Philosophy in America: 1900-1950." In 1953 she co-edited with Herbert Feigl, one of the major anthologies in the philosophy of science, Readings in the Philosophy of Science. From 1954 on she specialized in the philosophy of the social sciences and wrote a number of significant articles. In 1968 she published a major anthology, Readings in the Philosophy of the Social Sciences, one of the most outstanding works in that area and one which still is widely acknowledged.

She then turned to the philosophy of mind and wrote several papers in that area opposing the dominant materialist views of the day. She was president of the Western Division of the American Philosophical Association in 1971-1972. She accepted several visiting professorships in the U.S. and England. She served on the editorial boards of Philosophy of Science and Philosophical studies. She received a fellowship in 1981-1982 at the Center for Advanced Studies in the Behavioral Sciences at Stanford University. She was widely regarded as a brilliant and inspiring teacher of philosophy. Many of her former students have acknowledged her to be among the most important influences in their lives.


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May Brodbeck
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