À Rebours: Richard Popkin' Contributions To Intellectual History
Some readers of this essay will be old enough to remember the Shmoo, the cartoon character created by Al Capp. But you may not know that it morphed into a popular toy in the 1940s, which was basically a large plastic balloon in the shape of a bowling pin with a weight in the bottom. Whenever you punched it, it always popped right back up. That is my vision of my friend Dick Popkin in the last, unbelievably productive years of his life: emphysema, pneumonia, failing eyesight — all things that would fell a lesser man — could not keep him down. In 2000, Dick was invited by David Ruderman, the Director of the Institute of Advanced Judaic Studies at the University of Pennsylvania, to the final conference culminating a year of seminars devoted to a subject that Dick had helped pioneer, Christian Hebraism and the relation between Christians and Jews in the early modern period. In the months preceding the conference it was nip and tuck whether he would be up to making the trip from Los Angeles to Philadelphia. But with his new motto, “have oxygen,will travel,” he and his wife Julie arrived in style. And after a day of intense conferencing, without a note or moment of hesitation Dick summed up what had been said by the conferees and suggested areas for further research. It was just one more of Dick's stunning virtuosic performances.
KeywordsScientific Revolution Modern Philosophy Intellectual History Jewish History Early Modern Period
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