North American Scholar

HEIDEL, William Arthur

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  • Date of Birth (YYYY-MM-DD): 1868-03-10
  • Born City: Burlington
  • Born State/Country: IA
  • Parents: Rev. Charles & Mary Magdalen Fengel H.
  • Date of Death (YYYY-MM-DD): 1941-01-15
  • Death City: Middletown
  • Death State/Country: CT
  • Married: Mary Elizabeth Mack, 15 June 1898.
  • Education:

    A.B. Central Wesleyan Coll., 1888; M. A. 1891; study in Berlin, 1888-90; fell. Gk., U. Chicago, 1894-5; Ph.D., 1895; A.M. ad eundem, Wesleyan (CT), 1906; LL.D., 1929; L.H.D., Illinois Wesleyan, 1929; Trinity Coll. (CT), 1939.

  • Professional Experience:

    Actng. prof. Lat. Illinois Wesleyan, 1890-1; prof. Gk., 1891-4; docent in anc. phil. U. Chicago, 1895-6; prof. Lat. Iowa (now Grinnell) Coll., 1896-1905; prof. Gk. Wesleyan, 1905-28; asso. ed. CP, 1906-41; res. prof. Gk. emeritus, 1928-36; res. asso. ACLS & Carnegie Inst. (Washington, DC), 1928-41.

  • Dissertation:

    “Pseudo-Platonica” (Chicago, 1895); printed (Baltimore, 1896; repr. New York, 1976)

  • Publications:

    Selected Papers, ed. L. Taran (New York & London, 1980), contains, inter alia, works in the following list preceded by an asterisk; *“On Plato's Euthyphro,” TAPA 31 (1900) 163-81; *“Peras and Apeiron in the Pythagorean Philosophy,” AGP 14 (1901) 384-99; Plato's Euthyphro (New York, 1902; repr. New York, 1976); “Qualitative Change in Pre-Socratic Philosophy,” AGP 19 (1906) 333-79 (repr. in The Pre-Socratics ed. A. P. D. Mourelatos [New York, 1974], 86-95); “Περὶ Φύσεως: A Study of the Conception of Nature among the Pre-Socratics,” PAAAS 45 (1910) 79-133; *“Antecedents of Greek Corpuscular Theories,” HSCP 22 (1910) 111-72; *“On Anaximander,” CP 7 (1912) 212-34; *“On Certain Fragments of the Pre-Socratics: Critical Notes and Elucidations,” PAAAS 48 (1913) 681-734; “Hippocratea, 1” (only part published), HSCP 25 (1914) 139-203; *“Anaximander's Book, the Earliest Known Geographical Treatise,” PAAAS 56 (1921) 237-88; The Heroic Age of Science: The Conception, Ideals, and Methods of Science among the Ancient Greeks (Baltimore, 1933; repr. New York, 1971); “Hecataeus and the Egyptian Priests in Herodotus, Bk. 2,” MAAAS 18 (1935) 49-134; The Frame of the Ancient Greek Maps (New York, 1937; repr. New York, 1976); *“The Pythagoreans and Greek Mathematics,” AJP 61 (1940) 1-33 (repr. Studies in Presocratic Philosophy, ed. D. J. Furley and R. E. Allen [London, 1970], 1:350-81); Hippocratic Medicine: Its Spirit and Method (New York, 1941).

  • Notes:

    W. A. Heidel was the preeminent American scholar in Presocratic philosophy during the early part of the 20th century. Applying the method he learned in Germany, he produced much significant work, most of it still mandatory reading, in early Greek philosophy, science, and medicine. In addition to several studies of a close textual nature, he was one of the first Americans to try his hand at Begriffsgeschichte, the aim of which (as he wrote of one of his studies) “was to study a concept rather than a word.”“When as a lad of twenty,” he wrote to Johannes Ilberg, “I went to Berlin in 1888 I was especially attracted by two men, Zeller and Diels, both of whom showed me much courtesy and consideration. There the fusion of my main interests—in philosophy and in Greek—took the turn of a deep interest in Greek philosophy. ... Of the two I was most drawn to Diels.” Indeed, as he goes on to note, Heidel saw his own career paralleling that of Diels; both were best known for their work on the Presocratics, and both also were interested in later philosophy (especially Lucretius, a commentary on whom was commissioned by Gildersleeve, although it grew beyond the commissioned bounds) and in Greek medicine. Even his later work in Herodotus and the geographers Heidel saw as originating in Diels' course of lectures on Herodotus. Forestalled in his plan to collect the fragments of the Presocratics by the appearance in 1903 of Diels' great collection, he turned his attention to historical and philological studies of the basic concepts with which the first philosophers found themselves grappling. Of the series, which begins with “Πέρας and Ἄπειρον in the Pythagorean Philosophy” and ends with “Anaximander's Book,” perhaps the most comprehensive and most important is “Περὶ Φύσεως,” a study of the various Presocratic attempts to understand the underlying the true nature of matter.

  • Sources:

    CJ 36 (1940-1) 574-5.

  • Author: David Sider