In Memoriam --
Robert J. Baum (T-8)
Oct 19, 1941- May 17, 2016
Robert James Baum, a specialist in applied
ethics, passed away at the age of 74 in Baltimore on May 17th, 2016,
following a long struggle with Parkinson's Disease. He is survived by
Barbara Ann White, his partner of 10 years, his daughter Aimee Belser and
her family, his two nieces, Cindy Cutler Skacel and Tammy Randa and their
families, and his stepson, John Murphy and his family.
Baum was born on October
19, 1941 and was educated at Northwestern University, earning his BA in 1963
and his PhD in Philosophy from Ohio State University in 1969, with a
dissertation on George Berkeley's philosophy of mathematics, under the
supervision of Paul Olscamp. He taught for some time at the Middle East
Technical University in Turkey and at the University of Maryland at College
Park, but spent most of his career at Rennselaer Polytechnic Institute in
New York and at the University of Florida. He spent 12 years at Rennselaer,
there achieving the rank of full Professor, before moving to Florida in 1981
as a new Department Chair. He retired in 2008, having devoted 27 years to
the University of Florida.
Baum's primary research
and professional service was in the area of applied ethics, especially
business ethics and ethics for specific professions. With Deborah Johnson
and Norman Bowie he co-founded the Business and Professional Ethics Journal
in 1981 and was co-editor through 1988, after which he was sole editor until
2010, when the journal was acquired by the Philosophy Documentation Center,
which currently publishes it in cooperation with the Institute for Business
and Professional Ethics at DePaul University. In 1991, Baum founded a second
publication, Professional Ethics: A Multidisciplinary Journal, to provide a
venue for what he saw as important work deserving exposure that could not
fit comfortably under the purview of the first journal.
This publication was
folded back into the first one in 2003. Both were sponsored for a time at
the Center for Applied Philosophy and Ethics that Baum directed at the
University of Florida.
His published research
includes a short monograph, Ethics and Engineering Curricula, several edited
anthologies on ethics, an edited anthology in the philosophy of mathematics,
and many articles in such journals as Studies in the History and Philosophy
of Science, Teaching Philosophy, and Proceedings of the Philosophy of
Science Association. He gave more than 80 lectures at conferences, and
himself organized conferences on professional ethics, the ethics of health
care, the ethics of finance, and a special conference in honor of R. M.
Hare. He had an overriding concern with bringing philosophical expertise to
bear on practical problems, as also evidenced by his serving from 1974 to
1976 as the Director of the Ethical and Human Value Implications of Science
and Technology Program sponsored by the National Science Foundation.
This concern extended to
his teaching. He authored a textbook on logic that has gone through four
editions, first published in 1975 and still in print today with Oxford
University Press. As one of his former teaching assistants reports, he made
great efforts to make his lectures engaging to students (even in as dry a
subject as logic) and worked to connect the issues in his ethics courses
with those students would encounter outside the classroom.
Outside of academic
philosophy, Baum pursued a secondary avocation as a collector of antique
kilims—flat weaves created by nomadic tribes in Europe, Asia and Africa. In
the last decade of his time as a professor he was often invited to speak at
conferences on kilims, and his collection numbered over 800 pieces, a
collection that will be broken up and donated to museums around the country.
Some of his more valuable pieces were shown at the University of Baltimore
Law School's Gallery of Art in an exhibit entitled "19th Century Women's
Abstract Art." Baum was a relatively quiet person, thoughtful and mostly
keeping to himself. His character is perhaps well portrayed by something we
learned in the course of preparing this notice. He was very fond of picking
blueberries and would arrange his travel so that he would be home when they
were in season. He would drive to different farms to pick blueberries and
prepare them with tofu, a dish he reported to be delicious.
Philosophy at the University of Florida