Today I heard the sad news of the passing of the great Dutch medievalist Lambertus Marie de Rijk, at age 87. De Rijk almost singlehandedly founded the field of inquiry on Latin medieval logic and semantics, in particular but not exclusively thanks to his painstaking and groundbreaking work as an editor of manuscripts. The field would not be what it now is had not been for the publication of his seminal work Logica Modernorum (vol.1 in 1962, vol. 2 in 1967), where he retraces the birth of the ‘modern’ tradition in Latin medieval logic (i.e. the body of doctrines and theories which do not refer directly to Aristotle’s logical texts), including the edition of a large number of fundamental (often anonymous) texts.
De Rijk officially retired in 1988, but remained intellectually active all the way until the end of his life – as an editor of medieval manuscripts, of course, but also as a historian of philosophy more generally. In particular, he published a two-volume monograph on Aristotle, Aristotle: Semantics and Ontology, in 2002. De Rijk is without a doubt the founding father of the field of Latin medieval logic and semantics in the Netherlands, but his influence is almost equally felt in all parts of the world where the field is alive and kicking. An annotated bibliography retracing his impressive productivity is available in four chronological parts:
He was one of my academic grand-fathers, having been the PhD supervisor of E.P. Bos, who in turn was one of my PhD supervisors (and from whom I heard the sad news). (An aside: I suppose I can consider myself very lucky with my academic genealogy; through my other supervisor, B.G. Sundholm, I am a great-grand-child of Turing, and thus a great-great-grand-child of Church.) I only met De Rijk on a few occasions, as since his retirement he mostly stayed home in the south of the country. But he sent me a few hand-written letters (not emails!) on some questions I had at the beginning of my career as a graduate student, and in 2008 he gave us all the honor of his presence at the European Symposium on Medieval Logic and Semantics, which took place in Leiden in that year. He in fact gave a talk at the event, and I was asked to chair the session! It was such a great honor, I did not even try to hide that it was all quite emotional to me…
Besides his impressive career as a scholar, de Rijk was also a politician: from 1956 to 1991 he was a member of the Dutch senate. Rumor has it that he would on occasion work on his manuscript editions during some of the boring sessions at the senate, but he also made many important political contributions. How he could combine his political career with his outstanding productivity as a scholar remains something of a mystery. He will be missed, but his accomplishments will stay and speak for themselves.
(And let me note that this seems to be the year for great Dutch scholars to pass away: earlier this year we had already lost Frits Staal.)