Dirk J. Struik

Louis Proyect lnp3 at SPAMpanix.com
Thu Oct 26 10:35:15 MDT 2000

NY Times, October 26, 2000

Dirk J. Struik; Historian Was 106


Dr. Dirk Jan Struik, a prolific historian of mathematics who taught at the
Massachusetts Institute of Technology from 1926 to 1960, died on Saturday
at his home in Belmont, Mass. He was 106.

Born in the Netherlands, Dr. Struik (pronounced stroyk) traced his interest
in the history of mathematics to his experiences in Italy as a fledgling
scholar. It prompted him to put mathematics into a social context, from
ancient Greece and on to present. It also shaped his thinking as an
unwavering Marxist who shunned Soviet-style communism.

He wrote the two-volume "Concise History of Mathematics," published in 1948
and translated into many languages. A fourth revised American edition was
issued by Dover in 1987 and remains in print.

Other works include "Yankee Science in the Making," "Lectures on Projected
Geometry" and "Lectures on Classical Differential Geometry."

The Dibner Institute for the History of Science and Technology at M.I.T.
paid tribute to Dr. Struik and his "Concise History" on his centennial in
1994. "With this book and his historical scholarship," declared its
executive director, Dr. Evelyn Simha, "Struik has become the instructor
responsible for half the world's basic knowledge of the history of

His socialist beliefs led to charges of disloyalty to his adopted country
after World War II. In 1951, a county grand jury accused him of advocating
the overthrow of the government. M.I.T. then suspended him from teaching,
though with full pay and benefits, pending court action. His case was
dropped five years later for lack of evidence and after a Supreme Court
ruling that the states had no jurisdiction in such matters.

While his professorship was restored, an M.I.T. panel formally chided Dr.
Struik for "unbecoming" conduct. It rebuked him largely for declining to
testify before the House Un-American Activities Committee and for being
less than candid with the M.I.T. hierarchy.

A native of Rotterdam, Dirk Struik received a Ph.D. in mathematics at the
University of Leiden in 1922. He received a Rockefeller grant from 1924 to
1926 and studied in Europe. He was then invited to lecture at M.I.T. and
eventually to join the faculty. After retiring from M.I.T., he continued to
write and lecture.

Dr. Struik is survived by three daughters, Dr. Ruth Rebekka Struik, herself
an emeritus professor of mathematics at the University of Colorado; Anne
Macchi, a retired teacher in Arlington, Mass.; and Gwendolyn Bray, an
ecologist living in New Zealand; 10 grandchildren, and 3 great-grandchildren.

When he turned 100, Dr. Struik attributed his long life to the pleasures of
his profession. Asked what he missed most, he replied simply, "My wife."
His wife of 70 years, Dr. Saly Ruth Ramler, a mathematics professor, died
in 1993 at age 99.

Louis Proyect
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