Deaths of philosophers

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The documented history of philosophy is often said to begin with the notable death of Socrates. Since that time, there have been many other noteworthy deaths of philosophers.

  • 435 BCE According to legend, Empedocles leapt to his death into the crater of Etna.
  • 420 BCE According to some reports, Protagoras died in a shipwreck.
  • 399 BCE Socrates, condemned to death for corrupting the young, drank hemlock amongst his friends as described in Plato’s Phaedo.
  • 348 BCE Plato either died while being serenaded by a Thracian flute-playing girl, or at a wedding feast.
  • 338 BCE According to legend, Isocrates starved himself to death.
  • 323 BCE Accounts differ regarding the death of Diogenes of Sinope. He is alleged to have died from eating raw octopus, from being bitten by a dog, and from holding his breath. He left instructions for his corpse to be left outside the city walls as a feast for the animals and birds.
  • 320 BCE Ancient sources tell us that Nicocreon the tyrant had Anaxarchus pounded to death in a mortar with iron pestles; Anaxarchus is said to have made light of the punishment.
  • 314 BCE Xenocrates died when he hit his head after tripping over a bronze pot.
  • 270 BCE Epicurus died of kidney stones.
  • 262 BCE Zeno of Citium founder of the Stoic philosophical school tripped and broke his toe and then died from holding his breath.
  • 207 BCE Chrysippus is said to have died from laughter after giving wine to his donkey and seeing it attempt to eat figs.
  • 52 BCE Lucretius is alleged to have killed himself after being driven mad by taking a love potion.
  • 65 CE Seneca was forced to commit suicide after falling out with Emperor Nero.
  • 415 Hypatia was killed by a mob of Christians.
  • 430 Saint Augustine died in Hippo while the city was under siege by the Vandals.
  • 526 Boethius was strangled on the orders of the Ostrogoth king Theodoric by whom he was employed.
  • 1141 Judah Halevi was killed on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem.
  • 1180 Abraham ibn Daud was martyred.
  • 1277 Pope John XXI (usually identified with the logician Peter of Spain) was killed by the collapse of a roof.
  • 1284 Siger of Brabant was stabbed to death by his clerk.
  • 1415 Jan Hus was executed at the Council of Constance.
  • 1535 Thomas More was executed by beheading in 1535 after he had fallen out of favour with King Henry VIII.
  • 1572 Girolamo Maggi was executed by strangulation on the orders of a prison captain in Constantinople; Maggi had been incarcerated after being arrested during the Turkish siege of Famagusta.
  • 1572 Peter Ramus was killed in the St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre.
  • 1600 Giordano Bruno was burnt by the Inquisition.
  • 1619 Lucilio Vanini was also burnt by the Inquisition.
  • 1626 Francis Bacon died of pneumonia, contracted while stuffing snow into a chicken as an experiment in refrigeration.
  • 1640 Uriel da Costa, after being beaten and trampled by a religious group he had offended, went home and shot himself.
  • 1650 René Descartes was killed by a cold acquired through his rising early to instruct Queen Christina of Sweden.
  • 1677 Baruch Spinoza died of a pulmonary ailment, thought to be either tuberculosis or silicosis, brought on by inhaling glass dust while working as a lens grinder.
  • 1683 Algernon Sidney was executed for treason.
  • 1716 Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz died in Hanover on 14 November 1716 after a prolonged case of arthritis and gout. The only one to attend his funeral was his secretary, Johann Georg von Eckhart.
  • 1794 The Marquis de Condorcet died in prison.
  • 1814 Johann Gottlieb Fichte died of typhus in Berlin, during the campaign against Napoleon.
  • 1831 Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel died of a gastrointestinal disease during a cholera outbreak in Berlin.
  • 1837 Giacomo Leopardi died in Naples during a cholera epidemic, maybe by pulmonary edema.
  • 1866 William Whewell was thrown from his horse and sustained fatal injuries.
  • 1876 Philipp Mainländer hanged himself in his residence in Offenbach, using a pile of copies of The Philosophy of Redemption as a platform.
  • 1882 William Jevons was drowned while bathing.
  • 1900 Friedrich Nietzsche died after a mental breakdown.
  • 1901 Paul Rée fell to his death from a mountain.
  • 1903 Otto Weininger committed suicide by shooting himself.
  • 1906 Ludwig Boltzmann hanged himself.
  • 1910 Carlo Michelstaedter killed himself with a pistol he had in his house.
  • 1911 Paul Lafargue died with his wife, Laura Marx, in a suicide pact.
  • 1915 Emil Lask was killed in action as soldier in World War I.
  • 1917 Adolf Reinach fell outside Diksmuide in Flanders during World War I.
  • 1928 Alexander Bogdanov died as a result of one of his experiments in blood transfusion.
  • 1930 Frank P. Ramsey died after "contracting jaundice" at the age of 26. (Jaundice by itself is not a cause of death but instead indicates hemolytic or hepatic disease.)
  • 1931 Jacques Herbrand died in a mountaineering accident in the Alps at the age of 23.
  • 1936 Moritz Schlick was murdered by an insane student.
  • 1937 Gustav Shpet was executed after being accused of involvement in an anti-Soviet organization.
  • 1937 Antonio Gramsci died during his imprisonment by Benito Mussolini.
  • 1939 Stanisław Ignacy Witkiewicz committed suicide by taking an overdose of Veronal and trying to slit his wrists a day after the Soviet invasion of Poland; it was planned to be a joint suicide with a close friend of his but she survived the attempt.
  • 1940 Walter Benjamin committed suicide at the Spanish-French border, after attempting to flee from the Nazis.
  • 1940 Leon Trotsky was assassinated on Stalin's orders in Mexico, by Soviet agent Ramón Mercader, along with most of his family.
  • 1941 Henri Bergson died of pneumonia in occupied Paris, which he supposedly contracted after standing in a queue for several hours in order to register as a Jew.
  • 1941 Kurt Grelling was killed by the Nazis.
  • 1941 Edith Stein died in a gas chamber in the Auschwitz concentration camp.
  • 1943 Simone Weil starved herself to death.
  • 1944 Jean Cavaillès was shot by the Gestapo.
  • 1944 Marc Bloch was shot by the Gestapo for his work in the French Resistance.
  • 1944 Giovanni Gentile was murdered by communist partisans.
  • 1945 Dietrich Bonhoeffer was executed by hanging.
  • 1945 Gerhard Gentzen was detained in a prison camp by the Russian forces, where he died of malnutrition.
  • 1945 Ernst Bergmann committed suicide after the Allied forces captured Leipzig.
  • 1945 Johan Huizinga died in De Steeg in Gelderland, near Arnhem, where he was held in detention by the Nazis.
  • 1945 Miki Kiyoshi died in prison; he had been imprisoned after helping a friend on the run from the authorities.
  • 1948 Mohandas Gandhi was shot and killed by a Hindu zealot.
  • 1954 Alan Turing ate a cyanide-poisoned apple. He was believed at the time to have committed suicide due to chemical depression, but his death was possibly just an accident.[1]
  • 1960 Albert Camus died in an automobile accident.
  • 1961 Maurice Merleau-Ponty died of a stroke while preparing a lecture on Descartes.
  • 1969 Theodor Adorno developed heart palpitations after attempting to climb a 3000-metre mountain, and subsequently suffered a heart attack.
  • 1971 Richard Montague was beaten to death, presumably by a male prostitute.
  • 1973 Amílcar Cabral was assassinated while fighting for the independence of Portuguese colonies in Africa.
  • 1977 Jan Patočka died of an apoplexy after having been interrogated by the Czechoslovak secret police for eleven hours.
  • 1978 Kurt Gödel starved himself to death by refusing to eat for fear of being poisoned.
  • 1979 Evald Ilyenkov committed suicide.
  • 1979 Nicos Poulantzas committed suicide by jumping out of the twentieth floor of his apartment building.
  • 1980 Roland Barthes was struck in the street by a laundry van after leaving a luncheon with French President François Mitterrand.
  • 1983 Arthur Koestler committed joint suicide with his third wife, Cynthia, by taking an overdose of drugs after a painful struggle with disease.
  • 1984 Michel Foucault was the first high-profile French personality to die of AIDS after contracting HIV.
  • 1994 David Stove committed suicide by hanging himself after a painful struggle with disease.
  • 1994 Sarah Kofman committed suicide on Nietzsche’s birthday.
  • 1994 Guy Debord committed suicide by shooting himself after a painful struggle with polyneuritis.
  • 1995 Gilles Deleuze committed suicide by jumping out of his fourth-story apartment window.
  • 1998 Dimitris Liantinis committed suicide on the mountains of Taygetos.
  • 2001 David Lewis died of diabetes related complications.
  • 2004 Jacques Derrida died of pancreatic cancer.
  • 2007 André Gorz committed joint suicide with his wife by lethal injection.

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