Curtis Wilson, Selected Writings: Dean's Lectures and Other Writings for St. John's College

Curtis Wilson, Selected Writings: Dean's Lectures and Other Writings for St. John's College


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Curtis Wilson was a revered tutor and two-time dean at St. John's College in Annapolis for over fifty years. He was also an eminent historian of science, who published many significant studies in the history of astronomy and physics. This collection of his writings and lectures omits his purely scholarly work, focusing instead on spoken or written discourses produced for the St. John's College community.

The volume includes the eight lectures Mr. Wilson delivered as Dean of the College in 1958-1961 and 1973-1976, as well as other lectures, an article on Charles Peirce co-authored with one of the editors, and two book reviews. All of this work, in one way or another, speaks about the place of the natural sciences within the context of the liberal arts, and invites the layman to join in and follow along with Mr. Wilson as he meditates over many years on science and its place in human thought.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780692832691
Publisher: St. John's College Bookstore
Publication date: 04/21/2017
Pages: 422
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.86(d)

About the Author

Curtis Wilson was born in Los Angeles, California in 1921. After graduation from the University of California, Los Angeles, he received both his master's and doctoral degrees from Columbia University, New York. At Columbia he was a University Fellow. He was appointed to the St. John's faculty in 1948, even before having obtained his doctorate. In 1950-51 he received a Fullbright Fellowship to complete work toward his dissertation at the University of Padua. His doctoral dissertation became the source of his first book, William Heytesbury: Medieval Logic and the Rise of Mathematical Physics.

Ten years after joining the St. John's faculty, in 1958, he was chosen Dean of the College and served in this capacity for four years, until 1962. In 1962-63 he was a visiting research fellow at Birbeck College of the University of London, and in 1964 he was one of a group of tutors who became the core of the faculty at the new campus of St. John's in Santa Fe, N.M. Beginning in 1966 he spent seven years as a professor at the University of California in San Diego. He returned to St. John's in 1973 to begin a second term as Dean of the College. During his two deanships St. John's made, under his guidance, two major curricular revisions, the institution of preceptorials and the reorganization of the mathematics and science programs. During the autumn semesters of 1982 and 1986 he was a member of the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton. Following his retirement in 1988 he was a visiting professor in 1991 at the University of Toronto.

Mr. Wilson's research in the history of science centered on the writings of Kepler, Newton, Horrocks, Delambre, Euler, and other scientists important in the early foundations of modern physics and astronomy. In recognition of his contributions he became the first recipient in 1998 of the LeRoy E. Doggett Prize for writings in the history of astronomy awarded by the American Astronomical society. Between 1979 and 2001 he served on the editorial board of the Archive for the History of the Exact Sciences. He was also editor of the second volume of The General history of Astronomy: Planetary Astronomy from the Renaissance to the Rise of Astrophysics." In 1995 he published his translation of Francois de Gandt's Force and Geometry in Newton's Principia. In 2010, more than seven years of study culminated in the publication of his final book, The Hill-Brown Theory of the Moon's Motion: Its Coming-to-be and Short-lived Ascendancy (1877-1984). Mr. Wilson was a member of the International Academy of the History of Science, and of Commission 41 of the International Astronomical Union.

He was a man of wide interests. He played both the piano and the harpsichord. He knew many languages and had deep and abiding interests in literature and philosophy. He died on Aug. 24, 2012 at the age of 91.

The late Chaninah Maschler was a tutor and emerita tutor at St. John's College in Annapolis for over five decades.

Nicholas Maistrellis joined the faculty of St. John's College in Annapolis in 1967, and has been a tutor emeritus since 2013.

Table of Contents

Biographical Note iii
Editors' Preface v

Dean's lectures
The Archimedean Point and the Liberal Arts (1958) 3
Groups, Rings, and Lattices (1959) 20
Logos and the Underground (1960) 41
Reflections on the Idea of Science (1961) 63
On the Discovery of Deductive Science (1973) 85
Kepler and the Mode of Vision (1974) 111
Homo Loquens from a Biological Point of View (1975) 141
On Knowing How and Knowing What (1976) 173

Photographs of Curtis Wilson following page 203

Some additional lectures and essays for the St. John's Community
On the Origins of Celestial Dynamics (1971) 207
Dynamical Chaos: Some Implications of a Recent Discovery (1994) 236
Galileo Agonistes (1999) 255
Some Reflections on Darwin and C. S. Peirce (2012) 281

Book reviews
A Forgotten Revolution: Lucio Russo's La rivoluzione dimenticata 311
Monster Am I: Paolo Palmieri's A History of Galileo's Inclined Plane Experiment 327

Some eulogies of colleagues and a few other occasional discourses
Ford K. Brown (1977) 341
Jacob Klein (1979) 343
William O'Grady (1986) 344
Winfree Smith (1991) 346
Commencement Address (1964) 349
Commencement Address (1977) 360
A Toast to the Republic, delivered at the Senior Dinner (1986) 368
Commencement Address (1988) 371

Eulogies of Curtis Wilson
Nancy Buchenauer 381
Joseph Cohen 383
Thomas May 386
Paolo Palmieri 391
Louis Petrich 393
Thomas Slakey 396
John Wilson 397
Christopher Wilson 399

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