In Memoriam: Fiona Cowie, 1963-2018

Fiona Cowie, professor of philosophy at the California Institute of Technology, passed away on December 9, 2018, from complications due to cancer. She was 55 years old.

Dr. Cowie began her career at CalTech in 1992 as an instructor in philosophy. She was promoted to assistant professor in 1993, to associate professor in 1998, and to full professor in 2010. Her research focused on the evolution of the human mind and philosophical questions about language. In particular, she was a proponent of the theory that language is not an innate product of the human brain but rather a technological innovation.

Dr. Cowie is the author of What’s Within? Nativism Reconsidered (Oxford University Press, 1998), which won her the Gustave O. Arlt Award in the Humanities in 1999. She was selected for an Andrew W. Mellon Foundation New Directions Fellowship for Study of Neuroscience and Genetics in 2004. Dr. Cowie was a member of the American Philosophical Association and the Philosophy of Science Association. Additionally, she was a visiting fellow at the Research School of the Social Sciences at Australian National University in 2004 and 2005.

“In the best CalTech tradition, Professor Cowie asked big questions about important problems, marshaling insights from philosophy, biology, and linguistics,” says CalTech president Thomas F. Rosenbaum, the Sonja and William Davidow Presidential Chair and professor of physics. “She will be missed by colleagues across the Institute.”

A native of Australia, Dr. Cowie received a master’s degree and Ph.D. in philosophy both from Princeton University in New Jersey.

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