I was stunned and dismayed to learn the news of Mike Mahoney’s death, as I’m sure all of his former students and colleagues were.
Mike was my undergraduate advisor at Princeton. I had the good fortune to take his scientific revolution course during my first semester at Princeton in 1970. I was still planning to major in chemistry and was firmly set on a scientific career. Mike’s lectures were models of clarity and opened a window on a world of scholarship that fascinated and intrigued me. When I learned that Mike would be teaching a course on ancient and medieval science the following semester, I signed up. I had no idea what was in store, but his enthusiasm for the history of science was infectious. I was hooked — and eventually switched my major to history of science and wrote my senior thesis under Mike’s supervision. I still recall the wise and encouraging advice he gave an eager, but still undisciplined, student all those years ago. When I decided to pursue graduate studies in the history of science, he took the time to share some of his own experiences.
Over the coming years, while I was in graduate school at Penn and after, as I built first an academic career and then moved to the business world, I stayed in touch with Mike. He always had time for a quiet conversation, was always interested in what I was doing and always shared useful insights about my work or his. Like so many others, I always enjoyed seeing Mike, who helped me to understand what the life of the mind could be. I was pleased to be able to help him gain access to key individuals and sources on the history of UNIX some years later, while I was working at AT&T. And I was delighted that my son, Jeremy, who graduated from Princeton in 2002, also had the opportunity to study with Mike.
I’m proud to be able to count myself among Mike Mahoney’s students. He is sorely missed.