Obituary: Popkin, professor emeritus of philosophy

Richard H. Popkin, Ph.D., professor emeritus of philosophy in Arts & Sciences, died Thursday, April 14, 2005 in Santa Monica, Calif., of emphysema complications. He was 81.

Popkin was appointed as a visiting professor at the University in 1972 and became a regular member of the Department of Philo-sophy in 1973. He earned a doctorate from Columbia University in 1950 with a dissertation titled “The Neo-Intuitivist Theory of Mathematical Logic.”

Among his many honors, Popkin was the Clark Professor at the University of California, Los Angeles, the Woodruff Professor at Emory University, was awarded the Nicholas Murray Butler Medal by Columbia University and was a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Popkin was internationally known for his work in the history of skepticism that revolutionized scholarship on the origins of modern philosophy and science.

Popkin was author of Philosophy and the Human Spirit with Avrum Stroll, The History of Skepticism From Erasmus to Spinoza, The High Road to Pyrrhonism and Isaac La Peyrère (1596-1676): His Life, Work, and Influence.

He attracted mainstream readers with such books as his 1966 The Second Oswald: The Case for a Conspiracy Theory, about the John F. Kennedy assassination.

Popkin also garnered much attention for the 1998 book he co-wrote with David S. Katz, Messianic Revolution, about radical religious politics at the millennium.

After retiring as professor emeritus in 1986, Popkin published The Third Force in Seventeenth-Century Thought and was editor of Skepticism in the History of Philosophy and co-editor of Skepticism and Irreligion in the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries.

Survivors include his wife, Juliet; a son, Jeremy; two daughters, Margaret and Susan; and five grandchildren.