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History professor emeritus John Greene dies at 91

by Sherry Fisher - December 8, 2008


John Greene, emeritus professor of history, died Nov. 12. He was 91.

Greene, who lived in Pacific Grove, Calif., joined the UConn faculty in 1967 and retired in 1987.

His research included the history of evolutionary ideas in Western thought, early American science, and the historical relations of science, religion, and world view.

He turned a longstanding dialogue with two renowned evolutionary biologists into a book, Debating Darwin: Adventures of a Scholar (1999).

The book focuses on what sparked his interest in the history of evolution and evolutionary thought, and how he came to know 20th-century evolutionary biologists Ernst Mayr and Theodosius Dobzhansky.

His other books include, The Death of Adam: Evolution and Its Impact on Western Thought (1959); Science, Ideology and World View: Essays in the History of Evolutionary Ideas (1981); and American Science in the Age of Jefferson (1984).

Richard Brown, Board of Trustees Distinguished Professor of History and director of the Humanities Institute, says Greene was widely recognized as a leading American scholar of the history of science.

“He was very learned,” says Brown, “and very much respected for his high standards and integrity. He was also a good citizen of the department and the University, and widely respected by the community.”

Edmund Wehrle, professor emeritus of history, says Greene was “an incredible gentleman” who was generous with his hospitality.

Greene, who grew up in South Dakota, earned a doctorate in history from Harvard University. He served for three years in the U.S. Army during World War II.

He taught at the University of Chicago, the University of Wisconsin, Iowa State, the University of California at Berkeley, and the University of Kansas.

He was a member of the Society of Fellows at Harvard University and served as secretary and president of the History of Science Society. He received the George Sarton Medal for a lifetime of scholarly achievement.

Greene is survived by two sons, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. His wife Ellen and daughter predeceased him.

Contributions in his memory may be made to the ACLU.

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