In Memoriam: Evelyn Fox Keller, 1936-2023

Evelyn Fox Keller, an American physicist, author, and feminist and a professor emerita of history and philosophy of science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, died on September 22. She was 87 years old.

Professor Keller grew up in New York City, a child of Russian Jewish immigrant parents, and first attended Queens College as an undergraduate, before transferring to Brandeis University, where she received a bachelor’s degree in physics in 1957. She received a master’s degree from Radcliffe College in 1959 and earned a Ph.D. in physics from Harvard University in 1963.

During her graduate student years, Dr. Keller later wrote “I was leered at by some, open and unbelievably rude laughter with which I was often received.” In a 1993 profile of Dr. Keller in the MIT Technology Review, journalist Beth Horning wrote that  Keller’s “seriousness and ambition were publicly derided by both her peers and her elders.”

In her book Reflections on Gender and Science (Yale University Press, 1985), Dr. Keller looked broadly at how the 17th-century institutionalization of science both demarcated it strictly as an activity for men and, relatedly, generated a notion of purely objective inquiry that stood in contrast to the purportedly more emotional and less linear thinking of women.

Dr. Keller joined the MIT faculty in 1992 after teaching at a large number of prestigious institutions. That year, she received a MacArthur Foundation “genius” award for her scholarship. The foundation called her “a scholar whose interdisciplinary work raises important questions about the interrelationships among language, gender, and science.”

Dr. Keller was the author of 11 books and the editor of three volumes. Her last published work was Making Sense of My Life in Science: A Memoir (Modern Memoirs, 2023).

Filed Under: In Memoriam


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