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Academic genealogies

Wasting time usefully with my friend and co-student of Gareth Nelson, Malte Ebach, we wondered what our academic genealogies were.

My thesis advisors were Gareth J. Nelson and Neil Thomason.

Gary was advised by William A. Gosline (1915-2002), who was advised by George Sprague Myers (1905-1985), who was a student of Willis Horton Rich (1885-1972), a student of Charles Henry Gilbert (1859-1928), a student of David Starr Jordan (1851-1931; the LCA of all American ichthyologists, apparently), who did not do a PhD as such (it was the 1870s after all) but was mentored by Louis Agassiz, who was mentored by Georges Cuvier (who was self-taught). That’s a hellaciously solid ancestry.

Neil was advised by Paul K. Feyerabend (1924-1994), who was advised by Viktor Kraft (1880-1975), who was a student at the University of Vienna, whose Habilitation advisor was Adolf or Adolph Stöhr, about whom I can find almost nothing. I know Kraft was also once a student of Ernst Mach, but not, I think, a doctoral student.

Thanks to Malte and Tony Gill for information. Fun way to waste an afternoon. Oh, and did I mention I have an Erd?s number of 3? Yes; yes, I did…


    • John S. Wilkins John S. Wilkins

      Well, Biggles was my MA advisor along with Sterelny, so if you count that, I too am a descendent of Moore.

      • BTW, what is happening with Neil these days? He’s not at Melbourne any more is he?

        • John S. Wilkins John S. Wilkins

          Neil is retired (= “teaching for free”).

    • GE Moore, who – just like Russell and McTaggart – was supposedly a student of James Ward.

      The genealogy think being based on doctorates and supervisors becomes very sticky when you realise that Russell had a first degree in mathematics and that’s all! He didn’t even have a masters degree let alone a doctorate. My theorectical genealogy, I finished neither my master nor my doctorate both of which I was researching simultaneously, gets very complicated because my professor, a German philosopher, did his doctorate under one supervisor and his habilitation (German second doctorate) under another who did his doctorate and habilitation in mathematics! On the second line I go back to Leopold Kronecker.

  1. jeb jeb

    I disagreed violently with my main study supervisor. Hence no doctorate and a large dent in my savings as things were un-workable.

    The biggest influence on me academicaly managed to fail his p.h.d but went on to become one of the most succesfull academics in his field.

    The only advice he gave which I did not heed was not to waste my time engaging in p.g studies and have some confidence in my own learning abilities.

    A very expensive mistake on my part. As the experiance did not do wonders for my confidence.

    Influences on my learning are not particularly traditional and my view of institutional learning is somewhat jaded at times.

  2. I have J. L. Austin, Gustav Bergmann, James Cook Wilson, T. H. Green, Nelson Pike, Harold Prichard, and Wilfrid Sellars along different branches of mine (Austin, Cook Wilson, Green, and Prichard by way of my primary thesis advisor). A more motley crew than my academic genealogy is hard to imagine: every generation a completely different approach. I carry along the academic family tradition, I suppose.

  3. HP HP

    As a young man, I studied music in a Major American Conservatory, where this sort of thing is called “lineage,” and it is Very Important. I found out the hard way that you don’t joke about this in front of a violinist whose “lineage” includes Fritz Kreisler.

    (My lineage includes Arnold Jacobs, which is Extremely Significant to a vanishingly small number of people.)

    (For the Australians: I am also two handshakes from Percy Grainger.)

  4. I love the whole genealogy stuff, even though it doesn’t really mean that much–it is truly an academic endeavour. I had advisors in both evolutionary biology and biological anthropology. To me, these three weren’t just committee members, they were co-advisors. One was in biology–Peg Riley–and two were in Anthropology–David Watts and Alison Richard. Peg was a Lewontin student and Lewontin was a Dobzhansky student. David Watts was a student of Russ Tuttle, who was in turn a student of Sherwood Washburn. Alison Richard was a student of John Napier, who–I believe–was a student of Le Gros Clark. Of course, these names are meaningful to a very small subset of people.

    There is a great paper about the academic genealogies of field primatologists in the American Journal of Physical Anthropology

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