R.I.P. David Noble – The Socjournal

David Franklin Noble died of a sudden illness in Toronto on December 27, 2010.

Noble was an internationally acclaimed scholar and courageous activist, most recently on the faculty of York University in Toronto. Born in New York City, he held positions at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the Smithsonian Institution and Drexel University, as well as many visiting professorships.

Noble prized truth, justice and integrity, and he often found himself in conflict with powers-that-be. His numerous books challenged core ideas and major institutions of technology, science, corporate capitalism, and higher education. He provocatively critiqued the influence of religion on the scientific establishment, the historic exclusion of women from science, and “digital diploma mills” that attempt to commodify education.

As a relentless activist against injustice, he took the risks that no one else would take. He sued the Smithsonian Museum for stifling an exhibit that included information on the Luddites. He won an apology and settlement from Simon Fraser University for breaking its own rules in overriding a faculty decision to hire him as the J.S. Woodworth Chair, which combines teaching and research with active engagement in community issues. Noble charged his employer, York University in Toronto, with attempting to silence Palestinian students and their supporters. As an anti-Zionist Jewish atheist, he fought the university’s closure on Jewish holidays and insisted that the university either observe no religious holidays or all religions’ holidays.

Many academic colleagues and activists in the U.S. and Canada admired his tenacity. In 1998, he was awarded the Joe A. Callaway Award for Civic Courage, which “recognizes individuals who take a public stance to advance truth and justice, at some personal risk.” The award honored Noble’s decades as “a singular voice in seeking to fight the commercialization of higher education and to protect one of society’s most precious assets, an independent intellectual capacity to engage the serious issues of our day.”

Despite his public persona as a fighter, Noble’s family describes him as sweet-spirited and compassionate, an intensely loving husband, proud father, and devoted friend, who celebrated life, music, and nature.

David Noble is survived by his wife Sarah Dopp of Toronto; daughters Clare O’Connor of Toronto, Helen O’Connor of Toulon, France, and Alice O’Connor of Vancouver, B.C.; sister Jane Pafford of Arcadia, Florida; brothers Doug Noble of Rochester, New York, and Henry Noble of Seattle, Washington. A public memorial service will be announced in the coming weeks.

Family and friends of David Noble

Tweet This Post

Related posts: