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Australasian Association for the History,
Philosophy and Social Studies of Science

Issue No. 48, August 1994 (ISSN 0158 9040)

Edited by Tim Sherratt on behalf of AAHPSSS.

Simon Jacques Prokhovnik (1920 - 1994)

Simon Prokhovnik was born in France in June 1920. His parents were young Polish Jews eager for the freer air of Paris. Simon inherited from them the strong commitments to social justice and an international outlook which remained with him all his life. His early involvement in Jewish (particularly Yiddish) culture also continued, and as a result of this heritage he composed a Jewish Fantasia based on folk-songs and Jewish melodies. He was extensively involved in athletics and, later, in bridge.

The family emigrated to Melbourne in 1931. He worked as a clerk in the public service for two years, then as a biochemist and later as an analytical chemist. At the same time he was studying part-time and he obtained a BA in Mathematics in 1944 and an honours degree in Chemistry in 1946, both from the University of Melbourne. He also received a masters degree in 1965 from the University of Melbourne.

He was keen to work with tutors with cross-disciplinary teaching experience so that students would be exposed to a wide range of matters including the philosophical and political dimensions of science. He retired from his position of Associate Professor in Mathematics in 1981 but continued to work in the School of Mathematics and in General Education until his health started to fail in 1992. He died in June 1994.

His first book The Logic of Special Relativity was published in English in 1967 and later in French. The third edition came out in 1989. Another book Light in Einstein's Universe followed in 1985. The recognition he deserved started to come his way and his work increasingly reached an international audience.

He is survived by his wife, Rona. their three daughters - two of whom are represented m the University library - and six grand-children. He is mourned by many friends.

- Peter Donovan and Heather McCouat (extracted from 'Uniken', 29 July 1994, p. 4)

Published by the AAHPSSS on ASAPWeb, 17 August 1995
Prepared by: Tim Sherratt
Updated by: Elissa Tenkate
Date modified: 8 September 1997

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