We thank Dick Crouter for this wonderful tribute to Ian Barbour. Ed
Along with many others whose lives he so gracefully touched, the Elder Collegium community wishes to honor the memory of Ian Barbour (1923-2013). In him we have lost a friend, colleague, and mentor — a model of the lifelong learner. As a teacher and student in our midst he was widely known for his quiet, friendly manner and probing intellect. A former CVEC classmate, David Norman, recently noted that “because of his humility and self-effacing manner, I had no idea how well respected he was in academic circles.”
Trained as a physicist at the University of Chicago, Ian had taken up the study of theology at Yale before arriving in Northfield with his late wife, Deane Barbour, in 1955. Initially teaching in the Carleton Physics department, he became founder of the Department of Religion at Carleton where he taught from 1955 until 1986. Throughout his career he encouraged the interdisciplinary study of religion in dialogue with natural science (the topic of his many books) as well as other fields, including studies of public policy, the environment, and the impact of technology on today’s world. With typical modesty he once described his life work as “a pedagogical tool to begin to look at the science-and-religion landscape.”
Never restricted in his interests, Ian took fifteen CVEC courses, ranging from poetry and Shakespeare to J. S. Bach, Sociobiology, Japanese Life and Culture, Reinhold Niebuhr, The Enlightenment, Islam, and Mattering as We Age. He had hoped to take the course on Handel’s Messiah during winter 2014. One hundred seventeen students took his own CVEC lecture course, “Science, Religion, and Ethics,” offered on three occasions between 2006-2009.
Further details of his remarkable career can be found in obituaries printed in the Los Angeles Times, the Pioneer Press, the Star Tribune, the Huffington Post, the New York Times, and the Northfield News. Contributions in Ian’s memory may be given to First United Church of Christ in Northfield, the Ian Barbour Memorial Fund to benefit religious studies and religious life at Carleton, or to the Center for Theology and Natural Sciences in Berkeley, California.