The Passing of a Philosopher-Biosemiotician: Eliseo A. Fernandez (1935–2017)

Photo Eliseo_Fernandez.jpgIt is with much sadness that we announce the death of Eliseo A. Fernandez, a prominent biosemiotician, on May 13, 2017. Eliseo was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, on May 29, 1935. After completing his schooling in Mar del Plata, he pursued studies in philosophy at the National University of Buenos Aires, developing a special interest in the philosophy of science. Following an earlier 5-year stint in the United States (1957–62) during which he worked at the New York Public Library as a librarian and statistician, he returned permanently in 1967, settling in Kansas City, MO, where he began a 49-year-long career as reference librarian and bibliographer in the celebrated Linda Hall Library, a foremost independent research library devoted to science, engineering, and technology. He also enjoyed a 13-year-long career teaching Foundations of Physical Science courses as adjunct professor of physics at UMKC.

An exceptional broad and deep intellect, Eliseo attended numerous conferences and contributed papers at meetings of the Midwest Junto for the History of Science, the International Gatherings in Biosemiotics, the Jornadas “Peirce in Argentina,” the Semiotic Society of America, and the Charles S. Peirce Society, where his pioneering ideas met with high praise from his colleagues. He was also a member of the History of Science Society and the Philosophy of Science Association. His publications, especially abundant in the last two decades, treated various philosophical and scientific topics, including the connections between semiosis and emergence, energy, phase transitions, evolution, survival, reproduction, causation, and control. His focus, particularly in later years, turned to the work of philosopher Charles S. Peirce. Eliseo brought new light to the importance of Peirce’s ideas especially in biosemiotics and the philosophy of science, showing the relevance of such teleonomic concepts as habit, generalization, tendency, and purpose. He held that a Peircean relational-realist semiotics could do for biology what quantum physics ended up doing for classical physics.

Eliseo’s interests were vast, and his desire and ability to share his search for understanding of the world earned him a great number of friends, colleagues and admirers throughout his entire life. The SSA will greatly miss his gentle spirit and convivial soul.

Survivors include his wife Marcia; three daughters: Isabel F. Johnson, Ana Fernandez, and Silvia Fernandez; two step-sons: Colin Cox and Bradley Cox; and four grandchildren. A memorial service will be held Saturday, June 17, at 11:00 a.m. at the Linda Hall Library, 5109 Cherry Street, Kansas City, Missouri 64110. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Amnesty International or to the Linda Hall Library.

[Summary of an obituary supplied by Marcia Fernandez.]

This entry was posted in Uncategorized by Farouk Seif. Bookmark the permalink.

About Farouk Seif

Professor Emeritus, Antioch University Seattle, Washington, a registered architect, an artist, a Fellow of the International Communicology Institute, and the former Executive Director of the Semiotic Society of America.