Remembering Chandler Davis

Chandler Davis, Professor Emeritus, born in Ithaca NY, passed away on 24 September 2022 at the age of 96. A founding member of Science for Peace, Chandler was, as Professor Noam Chomsky stated recently, “a rare individual, a model of courage and integrity through dark and difficult times.” He received his PhD at Harvard University in 1950 and had been a faculty member of the University of Michigan and at Columbia University.

His creative writing challenged the gendered roles promoted in the 1950s

We should have thanked US politician Senator McCarthy for the honour of having our friend at the University of Toronto from 1962. In his book, The Purge, Chandler describes the efforts of the US government to suppress academics’ freedom of thought. Before the House Un-American Activities Committee, he refused to answer questions, basing his refusal on the US constitution’s First Amendment so that he could use his indictment to challenge the entire process in the courts. His refusal led to a six-month prison sentence.

A rare individual, a model of courage and integrity through dark and difficult times

Chandler’s activism was coupled to remarkable creativity. In addition to his mathematical accomplishments, he became a writer of science fiction, a poet — three books in print — and an inspiration to his scientific colleagues for peace. Chandler channeled his ideas and consideration of global problems that worked against peace and justice into these creative ventures. In her review of It Walks in Beauty — Selected Prose of Chandler Davis, Judith Deutsch, former President of Science for Peace, wrote “Whether writing imaginatively or factually, he shows how narcissism so destructively gets in the way of seeing others as real people and how it works against acknowledging what is unknown”. His creative writing was informed by the Red Scare witch hunts and the prospect of nuclear war, and it challenged the gendered roles promoted in the 1950s.

Chandler was at every meeting and every protest opposing war and violence

In Toronto, Chandler continued his activism and long served as a Board member of Science for Peace, where he inspired us. He patiently showed young members of Science for Peace both the complexity of global issues and, often, their simple solutions when rooted in justice. Chandler was at every meeting, every protest and forum opposing war and violence. He stood outdoors in front of the Israeli consulate in the dead of winter with his colleagues and fellow activists to oppose oppression of people in Palestine. In a fractious meeting, when strategies and goals seemed confused, Chandler would invariably cut through a tangled discussion to remind us that we were together to promote peace and justice.

Chandler married Natalie Zemon, a delightful partner and outstanding historian, 74 years ago. Our love and sympathy go out to her and their children. *

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