In Memoriam: Mary A. Kilbourne Matossian, 1930-2023

Mary Kilbourn Matossian, a noted historian who taught for 31 years at the University of Maryland, died in Portola Valley, California, on July 9, her 93rd birthday.

A native of Los Angeles, Dr. Matossian was a graduate of Stanford University. She then earned a master’s degree in Near Eastern history at the American University in Beirut. In 1954, she married Garo S. Matossian, an Armenian doctor who she had met in Beirut. A year later, she earned a Ph.D. in history at Stanford University.

In 1956, the couple moved to Boston, where Mary Mattossian continued her studies at Harvard’s Russian Research Center.  There she reworked her dissertation into book form. The result led to the publication of Impact of Soviet Policies in Armenia (Brill, 1962).

Dr. Matossian was the author of several other books including Poisons of the Past: Molds, Epidemics, and History (Yale University Press, 1991). In this work, Professor Matossian presented evidence that epidemics, sporadic outbursts of bizarre behavior (including the actions of women in Salem, Massachusetts, that caused many to believe they were witches), and low fertility and high death rates from the fourteenth to the eighteenth centuries may have been caused by food poisoning from microfungi in bread, the staple food in Europe and America during this period.

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