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Prof. Michael Wigodsky, expert on Stoic and Epicurean philosophy and Stanford emeritus, passed away in May.

Jul 10 2014

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Michael Wigodsky

1935 - 2014

Emeritus Professor Michael Wigodsky died on 9th May, two weeks before his 79th birthday. For several years he had been suffering from cancer, though he did not let this affect his helpfulness to his late colleague Ned Spofford in his infirmity, and he bore his increasing debility with great courage.

Mike had a distinguished scholarly career. He took his B.A. degree with highest honors at the University of Texas in 1957, and went on to win a Princeton National Fellowship for graduate work, followed by an Owen D. Young Fellowship in 1958. He then took up a Fellowship at the American Academy in Rome (using a Fulbright Grant), and was given the prestigious Prix de Rome Fellowship for 1960-61. After a year as Instructor at Florida State University he came to Stanford in 1962, and remained until his retirement as full professor in 1998.

Mike’s 1964 doctoral thesis, written under the supervision of George Duckworth, was published in a revised and expanded form in 1972 as Vergil and Early Latin Poetry, in the Hermes Einzelschriften series. Vergil, Horace, and Lucretius, especially their intellectual background, remained his major scholarly interest, though he also published articles on Greek drama and Anacreon. Naturally these interests involved the study of Stoic and Epicurean philosophy, and from the mid-1980’s Mike became heavily involved in the Philodemus Project, the UCLA-led international team working on the fragments of the papyri found in Herculaneum. Philodemus wrote critiques of the views of philosophers he disagreed with, and the current research has thrown new light on the philosophic background of the Roman authors with whom Mike was concerned. He spent some time in Naples working with other researchers, in particular on Epicurus’ theory of language, his theology, and his classification of pleasures and desires. This led him to publish two articles in volumes on Philodemus that appeared recently, and others on Epicurus and Horace. It is sad that his work in this field cannot continue.

Besides directing graduate dissertations in a number of fields, Mike’s immense learning was a great asset to the West Coast Aristotelian Society, a group of Classics and Philosophy professors and graduate students of which he was a keen supporter. The group began meeting in 1975, once a month alternately at Stanford and Berkeley, and attracted a dozen or so members, reading and discussing the works of Aristotle. The group began under the leadership of the late Julius Moravcsik, and recently Mike took over the organization and planning of the meetings. His death will be a great loss to the Society.

Music was Mike’s main interest beyond the classics: grand opera, musical comedy, and orchestral works. At one time he had a huge collection of LP’s, and later of DVD’s, and he constantly attended opera and symphony performances in San Francisco and Los Angeles. He loved to talk with other aficionados about performances he had seen or heard. During his years teaching at Stanford Mike had many friends in other departments, who valued him for the remarkable depth of his knowledge and interests

Written by Prof. Mark Edwards, emeritus.

Additional notice in the San Francisco Chronicle.