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President Chopp's Charge to Thomas Laqueur '67

Thomas Laqueur '67 and President Chopp

Thomas W. Laqueur, you are the Helen Fawcett Professor of History at the University of California, Berkeley, a famed scholar, writer, historian, and sexologist known for your work on subjects ranging from the social history of modern Britain to the cultural history of sex and gender. You have written for the New Republic, The Washington Post, and The Los Angeles Times and published groundbreaking social and historical studies that have been translated into numerous languages and read around the globe. Your work as an educator, historian, and social commentator has transformed our way of looking at the world.

You were born in 1945 in Istanbul, the child of Jewish parents who fled Germany in the late 1930s. After the war your family moved to West Virginia, where your father worked as a doctor in a coal company hospital. In 1962, as a junior in high school, you read in the Atlantic Monthly that Swarthmore was the best college in America and so came here the following year. You studied philosophy and history and graduated in 1967 with Honors in philosophy. After you began your graduate work at Princeton, you took a leave to teach at a small college in West Virginia, where you offered what may have been the first black history course ever taught in that state, and you also ran the West Virginia Service Corps. You returned to Princeton, earned your Ph.D. in 1971, writing a dissertation entitled Religion and Respectability, which explored how working-class people used Sunday schools to serve their own ends. You did post-graduate work at Oxford for two years and then took up a teaching post at Berkeley in 1973, where you have taught ever since. You have also twice served as Director of the Doreen B. Townsend Center for the Humanities there.

Your dissertation was published in 1976, followed by numerous other books, including, among others, The Making of the Modern Body: Sexuality and the Body in the Nineteenth Century, edited with Catherine Gallagher in 1987, and Making Sex: Body and Gender from the Greeks to Freud in 1990, which Steven Jay Gould called "a brilliant documentation of difference." You are currently at work on a new book, The Work of the Dead.

You have also published over 200 scholarly articles and reviews on a multitude of topics ranging from education and literacy to the politics of reproductive biology, from doctors and dying to memory and naming in the Great War.

Your many honors and awards include fellowships and grants from the Woodrow Wilson Society, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton, among others. In 2007, you were awarded the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation's Distinguished Achievement Award. You serve on the editorial boards of many scholarly journals including Representations, which you co-founded, and you are a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Science. 

Thomas W. Laqueur, you are one of the world's leading social and intellectual historians. You have charted and explored the history of sexuality and gender in historical and cultural terms from the ancients to the moderns and have provided us with a model for how science and culture are interrelated. Your work as a scholar and teacher has transformed your students' ways of thinking, and your writings have offered your readers new ways of looking at the world and ourselves.

Upon the recommendation of the faculty and by the power vested in me by the Board of Managers of Swarthmore College and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, I have the honor to bestow upon you the degree of Doctor of Humane Letters.