Pitt Philosophy Professor Adolf Grünbaum Is Honored by German Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Issue Date: 
September 23, 2013

In recognition of his outstanding achievements in philosophy and commitment to German-American cooperation in this field, Adolf Grünbaum, Andrew Mellon Professor of Philosophy of Science at the University of Pittsburgh, was presented with the Commander’s Cross of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany (Großes Verdienstkreuz) by Busso von Alvensleben, Consul General of the Federal Republic of Germany, at a by-invitation-only ceremony on Sept. 18 in the University Club.

“We have long been the direct beneficiaries of all that Professor Grünbaum—a giant in the world of philosophy—has done to elevate the University through his leadership and the excellence of his work. Indeed, Professor Grünbaum took a program that previously had attracted little attention, and pushed it into the international spotlight, and we are fortunate that the Department of Philosophy and Department of History and Philosophy of Science he helped to build continue to hold reputations as among the nation’s finest,” said Pitt Chancellor Mark A. Nordenberg.  

“I am very honored to receive this award and take great satisfaction in earning this recognition from the place of my birth and to be honored by the University that has been my home for more than five decades,” said Grünbaum.

Grünbaum has been characterized by American philosopher and New York Times author Jim Holt as “the foremost thinker about the subtleties of space and time” and as “arguably the greatest living philosopher of science.” Grünbaum’s writings deal with the philosophy of physics, the theory of scientific rationality, the philosophy of psychiatry, and the critique of theism. He is a well-known critic of Karl Popper’s philosophy of science.

Born in 1923 in Cologne, Germany, Grünbaum immigrated to the United States at the age of 15. After completing his undergraduate studies in philosophy and mathematics at Wesleyan University in 1943, Grünbaum served in the U.S. Army from 1944 until 1946. Following his service to his adopted country, Grünbaum earned his master’s degree in physics and PhD in philosophy from Yale University in 1948 and 1951, respectively.                                 

In 1950, Grünbaum joined the Department of Philosophy at Lehigh University, where he quickly rose through the ranks to become a full professor in 1955. From 1956 to 1960, Grünbaum served as Lehigh’s Selfridge Professor of Philosophy. Then he joined the University of Pittsburgh in 1960 as the first permanent Andrew Mellon Professor of Philosophy and as the founding director of Pitt’s Center for Philosophy of Science, a directorship he held until 1978.

Almost immediately after joining Pitt, Grünbaum began recruiting internationally respected faculty to the University, including Nicholas Rescher, Wilfrid Sellars, Richard Gale, Nuel Belnap, Alan Ross Anderson, and Gerald Massey, among others. Together, they have built Pitt’s world-class Department of Philosophy and the Department of History and Philosophy of Science.

Grünbaum serves as the Andrew Mellon Professor of Philosophy of Science; primary research professor, Department of History and Philosophy of Science; research professor of psychiatry; and cochair of Pitt’s Center for Philosophy of Science. Over the course of his career, Grünbaum has authored 12 books, including Philosophical Problems of Space and Time (1963), Modern Science and Zeno’s Paradoxes (1968), and The Foundations of Psychoanalysis: A Philosophical Critique (1984), and he has contributed more than 400 articles to anthologies and to philosophical and scientific periodicals. His papers and lectures are being published in a three-volume collection by Oxford University Press. The first book, Adolf Grünbaum: Collected Works, Volume I, was published in August 2013.

Grünbaum is a former president of the American Philosophical Association (Eastern Division); he also is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and a laureate of the International Academy of Humanism. He served two terms as president of the Philosophy of Science Association (1965-70). In 2004-2005, he was president of the Division of Logic, Methodology and Philosophy of Science of the International Union of History and Philosophy of Science. Upon completing this division presidency, he automatically became president for 2006-2007 of the International Union for the History and Philosophy of Science.

Grünbaum has given distinguished lectures throughout Europe. He has delivered the Werner Heisenberg Lecture at the Bavarian Academy of Sciences in Munich, Germany; the Gifford Lectures at the University of St. Andrews, which the late eminent cultural historian Jacques Barzun of Columbia University described as “the highest honor in a philosopher’s career”; and three Leibniz Lectures at the University of Hannover in Germany. His many awards include the Senior U.S. Scientist Award from the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation in Bonn, West Germany; the Fregene Prize for Philosophy of Science from the Italian Parliament in Rome; Yale University’s Wilbur Lucius Cross Medal; the Silver Medal from the University of Parma in Italy; and Pitt’s Master Scholar and Professor Award. He holds an honorary doctorate of philosophy from the University of Konstanz and also the University of Cologne (Fall 2013) in Germany.

Busso von Alvensleben, a native of Dortmund, Germany, has had a long and distinguished diplomatic career, beginning in 1978 with service in the Federal Foreign Office in Bonn and continuing with assignments at German embassies in Kenya and Israel. In 1987, he became counsellor of the Permanent Mission of the Federal Republic of Germany to the United Nations. He also has served as German ambassador to Sweden and Ireland and, in 2011, he became Germany’s Consul General in New York.