Nov. 18, 1999
Vol. 19 No. 5

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    Herman Melville scholar Merlin Shelley Bowen

    Merlin Shelley Bowen, Professor Emeritus in English Language & Literature at the University and a scholar of 19th- and early 20th-century English and American literature, died Sunday at his home in Chicago at age 89.

    Bowen was the author of several important works on Herman Melville, including The Long Encounter, Self and Experience in the Writings of Herman Melville (1961), which the London Times described as “one of the few useful books on the greatest American writer.” Bowen’s writings on Melville also appeared in the introduction to the Reinhart edition of Melville’s Redburn (1971), the journal Modern Philology and the influential teaching anthology Studies in the Novel, Vol. I (1969).

    Gwin Kolb, the Chester D. Tripp Professor Emeritus in English Language & Literature, recalls Bowen as a reserved man with a gentle sense of humor and a scholar whose first commitment was to his students. “Merlin wrote as beautiful prose as I’ve ever read,” said Kolb. “Everyone agreed he was a wonderful teacher,” he added.

    Bowen was a recipient of the University’s 1959 Quantrell Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching, which cited his “learning, wit and literary sensitivity” as attributes that contributed to his “strikingly effective” teaching of humanities courses in the College.

    Kolb remembers that University Professor and novelist Norman Mclean was an influential figure in Bowen’s undergraduate education. Bowen received his A.B. from Chicago in 1936, then went on to complete his A.M. in 1947 and his Ph.D. in 1957 in the English Language & Literature Department, where he received his first appointment as an Associate Professor in 1957. He assumed the title of Professor in 1967.

    After retiring in 1976, Bowen accepted a two-year teaching engagement in Japan and continued to teach, on occasion, as a lecturer in the College and at the University’s Graham School of Continuing Studies.

    Besides his wife, Ruth Bowen, survivors are sons, John Bowen of Chicago and Jeffrey Bowen of Toronto, Canada; daughters-in-law, Sherry Bowen and Georgia Bowen; and grandchildren, Sean and Josh.

    Funeral services will be private. The family has suggested that donations in remembrance of Bowen be made to Families of Children with Cancer, 46 Hogarth Ave., Toronto, Ontario, Canada M4K1K1.

    Paul Wheatley, long-time Chair of Social Thought

    Paul Wheatley, an expert on urban geography and long-time Chairman of the Committee on Social Thought, died Saturday, Oct. 30, at his home in Porter, Ind. He was 78.

    At the time of his death, he had recently completed a book on the development of urban civilization in the Islamic world––The Places Where Men Pray Together: Cities in Islamic Lands, 7th to 10th Centuries. The University Press will publish the book next year.

    “It is a meticulous study of Arabic, Persian and other sources in an effort to trace patterns of urbanism in medieval Islamic societies,” explained Joel Kraemer, Professor in the Divinity School. “Along with vibrant descriptions of urban sites, Professor Wheatley explored political, religious, cultural, economic and military aspects of the Islamic city.

    “Professor Wheatley’s work takes its place in the great tradition of medieval geographies and their modern orientalist heirs,” he added.

    Wheatley was the author of numerous articles on eastern and southeastern Asia and wrote the book The Golden Khersonese, which was published in 1961. The book was a study of ecological adaptation in the Malay Peninsula and neighboring areas.

    He also was the author of The Pivot of the Four Quarters: A Preliminary Enquiry into the Origins and Character of the Ancient Chinese City (1971); co-author of From Court to Capital (1978) and author of Nagara and Commentary (1983).

    Wheatley joined the University faculty in 1971 as Professor in Geography and Social Thought. He was named the Irving B. Harris Professor of Comparative Urban Studies and Social Thought in 1976 and served as Chairman of the Committee on Social Thought from 1977 until his retirement in 1991. He and his wife, Margaret, were joint masters of Snell-Hitchcock Halls from 1979 to 1991.

    In 1952, he founded The Journal of Tropical Geography and served as its editor from 1952 to 1958. He was a member of the editorial boards for several other journals, including the Journal of Southeast Asian Studies, the Journal of Interdisciplinary History, the Journal of Urban History and the Journal of Oriental Studies.

    Wheatley, a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the British Academy, received numerous awards for his work, including a Citation for Meritorious Contributions to the Field of Geography from the Association of American Geographers in 1974 and a Distinguished Service award for Asian Studies from the Association of American Geographers Specialty Group in 1987.

    He was born in England and served as a navigator in the Royal Air Force from 1941 to 1945. Wheatley received a B.A in 1949 from the University of Liverpool and an M.A. in 1951 and Ph.D. in 1958 from the University of London.

    He received a D.Lit. from the University of London in 1975.

    Before joining the Chicago faculty, he served on the faculties of the University of Malaya (now the University of Singapore), the University of California-Berkeley and University College, London.

    Survivors include his wife, Margaret Wheatley; sons, Julian of Cambridge, Mass., and Jonathan of Ft. Collins, Colo.; and four granddaughters.

    A memorial service is planned for 4:30 p.m., Monday, Nov. 29, in Bond Chapel on the University campus.