Pauline Maier, the William R. Kenan, Jr., Professor of History at MIT, died August 12 this year at age 75, a fact that this blog failed to note at the time. (I can’t remember why, except to note that an extended family member of mine like Maier also died of a recently diagnosed lung cancer a few days earlier, so I suppose his death was on my mind instead.) Mary Beth Norton writes to inform us that she will be speaking at a memorial service for Maier at MIT on Tuesday, October 29 in the Kresge Auditorium at MIT at 4 p.m.
You have to love the fact that in her obituary the Grey Lady 1) helpfully provides the pronunciation of Maier’s surname “(pronounced MAY-er)” and 2) called Maier the “Historian Who Described Jefferson As ‘Overrated’” right in the headline! Awesome! All historians should aspire to this irreverence, in my opinion.
The Jefferson-is-overrated comment is a reference to Maier’s brilliant history of the Declaration of Independence called American Scripture (1997). Many readers and reviewers have failed to note that the title is ironic, given that the goal of Maier’s book was to illuminate the role of the hundreds of state and local declarations of independence that were issued before the Continental Congress got around to writing theirs in the spring and early summer of 1776. It was a terrific book Continue Reading »