Ruth Anna Putnam

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Ruth Anna Putnam (previously Ruth Anna Hall[1] and Ruth Anna Hall Mathers;[2][3] 20 September 1927 – 4 May 2019) was an American philosopher and Professor of Philosophy at Wellesley College.[1][4][5]


Ruth Anna Hall was born to a Jewish mother and a Christian father in Berlin,[6] though her parents saw themselves as atheist.[7] When she was five years old, she was sent to live with her Christian grandparents when her anti-Nazi parents went into hiding.[7][6]

Ruth Anna emigrated to the United States after World War II and was reunited with her parents.[6] She studied chemistry at UCLA, obtaining a B.S. degree in 1954[5], and "fell in love with Philosophy of science and later turned to other areas of Philosophy", going on to gain a Ph.D. in philosophy at UCLA in 1962 with a dissertation on "The Interpretation of Theoretical Statements".[4][5][8]

After three years as Acting Assistant Professor in Philosophy at the University of Oregon, Ruth Anna moved to Wellesley College as a lecturer in 1963, and taught there until 1998, becoming Professor of Philosophy, and serving as chair of the Department of Philosophy in 1979–1982 and 1990–1993. In retirement she held the title of Professor Emerita.[4][8]

Much of her work focused on the philosopher William James (1842–1910) and she edited The Cambridge Companion to William James (Cambridge UP, 1997, ISBN 9780521459068), and she also worked on John Dewey (1859–1952).[4]

She married the philosopher Hilary Putnam on August 11, 1962.[9] Both brought up by atheist parents, they decided to bring their children up as a Jewish family. Ruth had her bat mitzvah in 1998, saying that it sent the message that "We are not going to finish Hitler's work for him. We are not going to assimilate".[7] At the time of Hilary's death, age 89, in 2016 they had two daughters, two sons and four granddaughters.[1] In 2017 a book collecting articles on pragmatism by both Ruth Anna and Hilary Putnam was published, Pragmatism as a Way of Life: The Lasting Legacy of William James and John Dewey (Harvard UP, 2017, ISBN 9780674967502).

Ruth Putnam died at her home on 4 May 2019, aged 91.[6]


  1. ^ a b c Weber, Bruce (17 March 2016). "Hilary Putnam, Giant of Modern Philosophy, Dies at 89". New York Times. Retrieved 29 August 2016.
  2. ^ "Doctoral Dissertations, 1963". The Review of Metaphysics. 17 (1): 157–166. 1963. JSTOR 20123991.
  3. ^ "Dissertations on pragmatism, 1890–1969". Pragmatism Cybrary. Retrieved 29 August 2016.
  4. ^ a b c d "Ruth Anna Putnam: Professor Emerita of Philosophy". Philosophy: Faculty & Staff. Wellesley College. Retrieved 29 August 2016.
  5. ^ a b c Shook, John R. (2010). "Putnam, Ruth Anna (1927–)". The Dictionary of Modern American Philosophers. Continuum. ISBN 9780199754663. Retrieved 29 August 2016.
  6. ^ a b c d "RUTH ANNA PUTNAM (obituary)".
  7. ^ a b c Wertheimer, Linda K. (30 July 2006). "Finding My Religion". Boston Globe. Retrieved 29 August 2016.
  8. ^ a b Puttnam, Ruth Anna. "Curriculum Vitae" (PDF). Wellesley College. Retrieved 29 August 2016.
  9. ^ "Putnam, Hilary 1926– – Dictionary definition of Putnam, Hilary 1926– | FREE online dictionary". Retrieved 2018-01-18.