Faculty

George Smith


Contact Info:
Department of Philosophy
Tufts University
Miner Hall, room 222C
Medford, MA 02155

617-627-2344
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Professor
Philosophy of Science, Logic

Biography

George Smith grew up in Cincinnati, Ohio, during the 1940's and early 1950's. His strongest memories from those years include the beginning of World War II; the dropping of the atomic bombs on Japan; the realization that these bombs were made in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, a few miles from his grandfather's farm; the entry of Jackie Robinson into major league baseball in 1947; and the invention of the jet engine. The last of these left such an impression on him that he has maintained a second career (or hobby, as he prefers) as an engineer from the mid-1950's to the present, specializing in the use of computer methods in the design of jet engines and turbomachinery. He still enjoys nothing more than being in a jet engine test cell or monitoring the start-up of an oil refinery or chemical plant. Smith entered Yale in 1956 to prepare for a career in directing and writing for the theater, only to be waylaid by his first encounter with philosophy in his freshman year. He ended up majoring in philosophy and mathematics, graduating in 1962, after taking two years off to work on an advanced jet engine at General Electric. Ten years later, after a decade of playing bridge and working at Pratt-Whitney Aircraft and Northern Research and Engineering Corporation, he was drawn back to philosophy, first by Vietnam-War-inspired questions about whether political science can be made a real science at all, and then by questions about what real science is in the first place. He obtained his Ph.D. from MIT's Department of Linguistics and Philosophy in 1979, after teaching methods of computer modeling in MIT's Political Science Department for two years. He joined Tufts' Philosophy Department in 1977.

Smith grew up playing basketball, ultimately reaching a semi-professional level and then coaching in the Boston area. In the late 1960's (after his basketball players asked him to quit trying to practice with them) he switched to tennis, which he continues to play avidly. He is married to a medical journalist, and they are both extremely attached to their twin daughters, one of whom recently graduated from Brandeis with a major in Judaic Studies, and the other, from the School of Theater of the University of Southern California.

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