(Academic) Pedigree

(For Current and future grad students with a sense of humor)

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If you ever wondered how small the academic world is, the Academic Family Tree project will convince you that it is tiny. This website traces doctoral mentor-mentee filiation over the centuries. To whom are you, my dear present or future grad students, related? The story of our illustrious family tree starts at Georgetown, in Washington DC, where I met my parents. Yeah, unlike most academics, I have two parents (called “co-advisors” in American English): my cherished Maggie Little and Madison Powers. Here they are:

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Let’s start with Maggie’s genealogy. Through her, we are descendants of the founders of American pragmatism: John Dewey (cash value: 30 cents) and William James (aka the Indiana Jones of philosophy and psychology).

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James’ wonderful doodle in his  Brazil notebook .

James’ wonderful doodle in his Brazil notebook.

Thanks to Maggie we’re related to another philosopher worth 30 cents: Immanuel Kant.

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Hermann’s Tortoise ( Testudo hermanni ) seeking knowledge or vacationing in Italy (named after our ancestor, Johann Hermann from Alsace)

Hermann’s Tortoise (Testudo hermanni) seeking knowledge or vacationing in Italy (named after our ancestor, Johann Hermann from Alsace)

Thanks to Maggie, we’re also direct heirs to Leibniz. Gottfried, here’s the decisive proof that we live In the best of all possible worlds: you’re worth twice as much as Immanuel!

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Wait a minute, did Christian Wolff work as a “post-doc” for Leibniz? That’s implausible: how could he afford such extravagant wigs?

The story continues on and on till we reach Copernicus (20 steps), an astronomer worth four times less than Leibniz (1,20 francs = 15 cents).

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Where does it end? One line ends (32 steps) in Constantinople with Anna Comnena (Ἄννα Κομνηνή), the Byzantine princess (1083 – 1153), who was a philosopher, a physician and a historian!


What about Madison Powers’ lineage? Madison got his doctoral degree from Oxford. His dissertation readers were James Griffin and Derek Parfit; his main advisor was Joseph Raz (יוסף רז in Hebrew). Grand-pa Joe is undeniably a great philosopher; he nonetheless made a fatal mistake (from our perspective): he studied with legal philosopher H. L. A. Hart. Hart was trained in law,, not philosophy, so the line ends with him. Damn lawyer!

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To be continued…