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  • Margaret Jo Osler (1942–2010)
  • James E. Force

Professor Margaret Jo Osler of the University of Calgary, an historian of early modern science and philosophy (and a member of the Board of Directors of the Journal of the History of Philosophy since 2002) died on September 15, 2010. Born on November 27, 1942, she proudly proclaimed herself to be a "red diaper baby" and particularly delighted in telling her right-wing friends how her middle name was her parents' homage to Stalin. An energetic scholar with a vibrant and positive personality, Maggie, as everyone who worked with her came to call her, never considered retirement and was actively working right up to her diagnosis with pancreatic cancer in early July, 2010.

After graduating from Swarthmore College in 1963 with a B.A. in Philosophy, Maggie went to the Department of History and Philosophy of Science at Indiana University where she studied with Richard Westfall. She obtained her M.A. in 1966 with a thesis in which she showed how Gassendi Christianized Epicurean atomism, and her Ph.D. in 1968 with a thesis on Locke, Boyle, and Newton. She taught briefly at Oregon State University (1968–70), Harvey Mudd College (1970–74), and Wake Forest University (1974–75) before going to the University of Calgary in 1975, where she remained for the rest of her career. Tenured in the Department of History in 1980, she was promoted to the rank of Professor in 1995. She became an Adjunct Professor of Philosophy in 1998.

Richard Popkin, the Founding Editor of the Journal of the History of Philosophy, believed that Maggie's work illustrated his oft-repeated observation that some of the finest work in the history of philosophy is done by historians of science. In fact, Maggie's work cuts across the boundaries which often have separated the disciplines of philosophy, science, and religion. Maggie's greatest monument is the wisdom preserved in her many books and essays, including Divine Will and the Mechanical Philosophy: Gassendi and Descartes on Contingency and Necessity in the Created World (1994), and her last book, Reconfiguring the World: Nature, God, and Human Understanding from the Middle Ages to Early Modern Europe (2010). Almost as important, though less visible, is the record of her indefatigable service to, and promotion of, modern scholarship through the History of Science Society and her membership on the selection panels for granting agencies such as the NEH, the NSF, and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, as well as her work for this journal.

Maggie Osler had a gift for friendship. Those privileged to know her will keenly miss her fiery optimism, her courage, and the upbeat spirit which made being in her presence such a joy. JHP Board meetings will be much less lively without her plainspoken common sense, the jokes she made, and the gleam in her eye when she made them. [Begin Page iv]