Maggie Osler, 1942-2010
Margaret J. Osler passed away on 15 Sept 2010, shortly after being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Maggie -- as she was called by everyone but her mother -- served as the History of Science Socidety Secretary from 2001 until her death. She was a devoted officer and member throughout her many years of service, filling stints on HSS Council, as well as numerous committees, giving literally thousands of hours of service to the HSS. She brought both irreverence and high academic standards to officers' meetings, insisting on close textual readings and encouraging everyone to sing old labor songs (a by product, she would tell us, of being raised by lefty, intellectual parents who were so enamored with socialism that their only daughter's middle name, Jo, was a tribute to Joseph Stalin).
Born in New York in 1942, Maggie's birth saw many complications and she almost lost her mother. Maggie's story about this episode, how her father -- some would say miraculously -- was able to save her mother, is a vivid depiction of the tension between faith and reason. Her family moved to Baltimore while she was still a child, and it was in Baltimore, as a young student, that she exhibited her highly developed sense of right and wrong, even picketing businesses that refused to serve African Americans -- a risky proposition for a young woman during the civil rights era of Baltimore. She excelled as a student and attended Swarthmore College, a place that she loved. After graduation in 1963, she entered graduate school at Indiana University, in Bloomington, Indiana, where she worked with Sam Westfall. After graduating in 1968 with her PhD in the history and philosophy of science, she struggled to find her place, but after brief stints at Wake Forest University, Harvey Mudd College, Oregon State University and driving a cab, she settled happily at the University of Calgary in 1975, in Alberta, Canada, where she worked until her death. During her scholarly career, she became one of the world’s experts on the work of Pierre Gassendi and the early modern period. Her latest book, Reconfiguring the World: Nature, God, and Human Understanding from the Middle Ages to Early Modern Europe was just published by Johns Hopkins University Press.
Maggie loved life, finding humor (and anti-Semitic plots) in almost every imaginable circumstance (as well as those that defied imagination). Her irrepressible sense of humor, her forthright nature, and her acute understanding of humanity allowed her to form friendships with a stunningly broad range of individuals, bringing together the most unlikely of suspects. She was a fierce defender of those whom she liked and these friends have suffered an irreparable loss.
An overview of her life and work can be found at http://arts.ucalgary.ca/news/dr-margaret-osler-fondly-remembered. A memorial service has been planned for 20 November 2010, in Calgary.
Maggie had no immediate family members. Her cousin, Joan Crespi, will be receiving condolence cards on behalf of the Osler family. Her address is:
424 West End Avenue, #9F
New York, NY 10024 USA
A scholarship fund in Maggie's name is being set up at the University of Calgary.