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  • In Memoriam, Eugenius Marius Uhlenbeck, 1913-2003
  • Mark Janse

Eugenius Marius Uhlenbeck, Bob as he was affectionately known to his friends, died at home on May 27, 2003, two months before his 90th birthday. He was a distinguished scholar, an indefatigable organizer and academic initiator, a gifted and inspiring teacher, a loyal friend and, despite his many activities, a family man with a sense of tradition handed down to his children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. Professor of Javanese Language and Literature (1950-83) and in addition also Professor of General Linguistics (1958-79) at Leiden University, Bob was a pivotal figure in both fields, bestowed with numerous honors and awards, both nationally and internationally. In the Netherlands he was member and subsequently vice president of the Dutch Council for Science Policy (1967-76); member of the advisory board of the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (1967-82), the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences (from 1967), and the Royal Holland Society of Sciences and Humanities (from 1970); and honorary member of the Royal Netherlands Institute of Southeast Asian and Caribbean Studies (from 1983), after having been a member of its board and subsequently president (1950-65). In 1969 he received a knighthood in the Order of the Lion of the Netherlands. In 1983 the Netherlands Institute for Avanced Studies inaugurated an annual series of Uhlenbeck lectures to honor its founding president (1970-83), the first being Bob's statement on the autonomy of linguistics (Uhlenbeck 1983b). Under his editorship (1950-84), Lingua became one of the leading journals in the field of general linguistics. International acclaim soon followed. After having been visiting professor at the Linguistic Institute in Bloomington, Indiana (1953), and at the University of California at San Diego (1965), associate editor of the International Journal of American Linguistics (from 1959), and research fellow at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences in Stanford, California (1965-66), Bob was elected honorary member of the Linguistic Society of America (1972). He received honoris causa doctorates from the Catholic University of Louvain (1975) and Charles University in Prague (1991), where he was also elected honorary member of the Prague Linguistic Circle (1991) and the Association of Alumni and Friends of Charles University (1993). After having been president of the Societas Linguistica Europaea (1972), he was elected member of the Academia Europaea (1991). In 1994 a corresponding fellowship of the British Academy was conferred upon him. Pacific acclaim materialized in the form of a professorial fellowship at the Australian National University (1973), followed by a research fellowship at the same university (1985). In 1991 he was invited to give the opening keynote address at the 6th International Conference on Austronesian Linguistics in Honolulu, Hawai'i; it was published the year [End Page 245] after as the lead article of Oceanic Linguistics (Uhlenbeck 1992a), the journal that claimed him as a member of its Editorial Advisory Board from its inception in 1962. Last but definitely not least, Bob was elected secretary general of the Permanent International Committee of Linguists at the 12th International Congress of Linguists in Vienna (1977) and would remain in office until the 15th in Quebec (1992).

1. Indonesian years (1939-48).

Bob was born in The Hague on August 9, 1913. He was named after his father, who had served as an officer in the Dutch East Indian army, but returned to the Netherlands to ensure a good education for his children. His eldest brother, the famous physicist George Eugène Uhlenbeck (1900-1988), was born in Batavia (now Jakarta), and Bob seems to have been destined for a career in the Dutch East Indies (now Indonesia). He received his secondary education at the renowned Gymnasium Haganum in The Hague (1925-32), before taking up the study of Indology at the University of Leiden (1932-37) and Indonesian Law ("Indisch Recht") at the University of Utrecht (1933-38). After his military service he married Sabine Ottevanger. They left immediately for the Dutch East Indies where Bob was to take up a position as government linguist at Balai Pustaka, the Bureau for Popular Literature, in Batavia. The three years at Balai Pustaka proved to be crucial in...


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