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Department of History and Philosophy of Science


Professor A.R. (Rupert) Hall, a founder member of the Department, died on 5 February 2009, aged 88.

Rupert Hall was the first Curator of the Whipple Museum (1948), University Assistant Lecturer in History of Science (1950) and Lecturer in the History of Science (1953–59) in the University of Cambridge. His work The Scientific Revolution (1954), based upon his lectures, became a standard teaching text for many years and was extremely influential in disseminating the very idea of 'the Scientific Revolution'. He later co-edited the correspondence of Isaac Newton. With his second wife, Marie Boas Hall, also a distinguished historian of science, he edited the correspondence of Henry Oldenburg (13 vols., 1962–86). Marie Boas Hall died eighteen days after him.

In November 1954, Hall reported to the History of Science Committee that: "It is something of a scandal that the Whipple benefaction should have remained for ten years in a depressed condition, and that an excellent nucleus for a History and Philosophy of Science Library should still be virtually useless. Once the Museum and Library are properly established and provided for they will offer the perfect centre for all History and Philosophy activities in the University – a most important physical focus." His report recommended:

"I. That the teaching and administration of the History and Philosophy of Science be made the responsibility of a single Committee or Syndicate.
II. That the Committee recommend the appointment of a University officer who shall be Curator of the Whipple Museum of the History of Science.
III. That the Committee press for the provision of adequate accommodation for the Museum and its Library which can become a centre for our studies."

With the assistance of others, notably Joseph Needham, Hall's recommendations were accepted and implemented. The result was the eventual installation in 1958 of the Whipple Museum and Library in the Perse Room, closely associated with an embryonic centre for teaching and research in the History and Philosophy of Science.

Obituary in The Guardian by David Knight