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The Dartmouth
April 15, 2024 | Latest Issue
The Dartmouth

Spring Fellow Gellner dies at 69

Ernest Gellner, a renowned anthropologist at Cambridge University who was supposed to come to the College in the spring as a Montgomery Fellow, died on Nov. 5 in Prague. He was 69.

The cause of death was a heart attack. Gellner also suffered from osteoporosis.

For the past two years, the College had tried to get Gellner to come to Dartmouth with the support of the Montgomery Endowment, whose purpose is to bring scholars from various fields to campus to teach for a term.

Gellner finally accepted the College's invitation last year and was scheduled to teach a course on political anthropology with Anthropology Professor Dale Eickelman in the Spring term.

The College is now trying to invite someone else to be the Spring term Montgomery Fellow, but Assistant Provost Barbara Gerstner said it is hard to find someone for the entire 10-week term on such short notice. Gerstner is the executive director of the Montgomery Endowment.

History Department Chair Gene Garthwaite said Gellner's death is a tragic event and it is "a major loss not to have him teach at Dartmouth."

Gellner's work on nationalism cut across disciplinary lines and "had an impact on the world," Garthwaite said.

Gellner was the William Wyse Professor of Social Anthropology and Professorial Fellow Emeritus of King's College, Cambridge University. He was a trained philosopher and anthropologist, and wrote for specialized journals of both disciplines.

Eickelman still plans to conduct a seminar focusing on Gellner's works, Gerstner said.

She said Eickelman has proposed to bring various special visitors who are closely connected with Gellner's work to the campus.

These speakers include Gellner's last doctoral student, an editor of Gellner's papers and a Moroccan critic of his works. Gerstner said these lectures may be open to the public.

Gellner was professor of philosophy at the London School of Economics from 1962 to 1984 and professor of social anthropology at Cambridge from 1984 to 1993.

He had been a professor at the Central European University in Prague since 1993.

Gellner was also director of the university's Center for the Study of Nationalism.

Gellner's most acclaimed works include: "Nations and Nationalism,"

"The Psychoanalytic Movement" and "Conditions of Liberty: Civil Society and Its Rivals."

A native of Paris, Gellner grew up in Prague and attended Oxford University and the London School of Economics.