Mary Hesse

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Mary Hesse
Mary Hesse.jpg
Mary Brenda Hesse

15 October 1924
Reigate, Surrey, England, UK
Died2 October 2016 (aged 91)
Alma materImperial College
University College London
EraContemporary philosophy
RegionWestern philosophy
SchoolAnalytic philosophy
InstitutionsUniversity of London
University of Cambridge
Doctoral studentsHugh Mellor
Main interests
Philosophy of science

Mary Brenda Hesse FBA (15 October 1924 – 2 October 2016) was an English philosopher of science, latterly a professor in the subject at the University of Cambridge.[1]


Mary Hesse was born in Reigate, Surrey, to Ethelbert (Bertie) Thomas Hesse and Brenda Hesse (née Pelling).[2]

From 1949, she studied at Imperial College London, where she received a bachelor's degree in mathematics in 1945, followed by a PhD in electron microscopy in 1948.[2] She earned a master's degree in 1949 from University College London.[2] Hesse lectured on mathematics at Royal Holloway College from 1947 to 1951, and at the University of Leeds from 1951 to 1955.[3] From 1955 to 1959 she taught philosophy and history of science at the University of London (the subject of her 1949 UCL master's degree).[2][3] In 1960 she was appointed to a lectureship in the same subject at the University of Cambridge, and in 1968 to a readership.[3] Hesse was a Fellow of Wolfson College from its beginning in 1965, and served as its vice-president from 1976 to 1980.[4] From 1975 until her early retirement in 1985, she remained at Cambridge as Professor of Philosophy of Science.[3][2]

Hesse was elected a Fellow of the British Academy in 1971, as president of the Philosophy of Science Association in 1979, and awarded a Cambridge honorary ScD in 2002.[3][5] Retiring in 1985, she remained living in Cambridge until her death on 2 October 2016.



Essay collections

Academic papers/book chapters, a selection

*For a complete list of publications see the online annotated and chronological bibliographies at Matteo Collodel's website in her honour.


  1. ^ Hallberg, Margareta (1 June 2017). "Revolutions and Reconstructions in the Philosophy of Science: Mary Hesse (1924–2016)". Journal for General Philosophy of Science. 48 (2): 161–171. doi:10.1007/s10838-017-9364-1. ISSN 1572-8587.
  2. ^ a b c d e "Mary Hesse". The Times. 31 December 2016. ISSN 0140-0460. Retrieved 19 March 2019.
  3. ^ a b c d e "Professor Mary Hesse (1924–2016) | HPS". Retrieved 19 March 2019.
  4. ^ "Professor Mary Hesse | Wolfson College Cambridge". 6 March 2016. Archived from the original on 6 March 2016. Retrieved 19 March 2019.
  5. ^ "Mary Brenda Hesse". The Gifford Lectures. 18 August 2014. Retrieved 19 March 2019.
  6. ^ "The Construction of Reality". The Gifford Lectures. 18 August 2014. Retrieved 16 September 2019.
  7. ^ Paper delivered as Hesse's contribution to the symposium "Unfamiliar Noises" at the 1987 Joint Session of the Aristotelian Society and Mind Association. Co-symposiast Richard Rorty's paper "Hesse and Davidson on Metaphor" is also available (with registration at Internet Archive) in the same volume. (Susan Haack's address as chairman "Surprising Noises: Rorty and Hesse on Metaphor" being similarly available in Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society, Volume 88, Issue 1 (1988).

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