Professor Hugh Mellor
Q You have given generous support to the appeal for the endowment of the 1896 Professorship of Philosophy. What was it about this initiative that particularly interested you?
A As a philosopher I owe so much to the staff and students of the Cambridge Philosophy Faculty that I thought this Chair, which I was honoured to hold, should be endowed to secure its future and that of the Faculty as a whole. I also thought the Appeal would enable a major donor to propose naming the Chair, ideally after Russell, Wittgenstein or Ramsey, the greatest Cambridge philosophers of the last century – an opportunity that I hope will still be taken up.
Q How did you become involved with the University?
A I first came to Cambridge in 1956 as an undergraduate to read Natural Sciences and Chemical Engineering. After three years away, two years in the US as a graduate student and one year as a chemical engineer at ICI, I returned to do a PhD in philosophy. I was then lucky enough to get a job here that has enabled me to repay a little of my intellectual and personal debt, not just to the Philosophy Faculty but also to the Colleges I've been at – Pembroke and Darwin – and indeed the whole University.
Q What does Cambridge mean to you?
A For me the University has been an ideal place to work, with some of the best colleagues and brightest and keenest students I could ever wish for, and unsurpassed facilities for research, all in an institution that, for all its faults, combines democracy and efficiency better than anywhere else I know. Nor can I think of a better place to live than the centre of Cambridge, and not just for those who share my passion for acting and theatre-going. With its compact beauty and convenience, with open country all round, and London an hour away by train, why would any sensible city-dweller who can have a car-free life and work here ever want to leave?
Professor Mellor studied Chemical Engineering at Pembroke College, Cambridge, graduating in 1960, and at the University of Minnesota, taking an MSc in 1962, with a Minor in Philosophy supervised by Herbert Feigl. After working at ICI for a year, he returned to Pembroke to do a PhD on the nature of chance. He was a Fellow of the British Academy from 1983 to 2008, President of the British Society for the Philosophy of Science from 1985 to 1987, and President of the Aristotelian Society from 1992 to 1993. At Cambridge, he was a Fellow of Pembroke College from 1964 to 1970 and a Fellow of Darwin College from 1971 to 2005. He became a University Assistant Lecturer in Philosophy in 1965, a Lecturer in 1970, a Reader in Metaphysics in 1983 and the Professor of Philosophy from 1986 to 1999. From 2000 to 2001, he was a Pro-Vice-Chancellor.
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