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Week of January 25, 2010


J. David Singer

Professor J. David Singer, professor emeritus of political science and an international expert in the study of war, died Dec. 28 in Ann Arbor. He had been involved in an automobile accident on Sept. 22 and had been hospitalized since. He was 84 years old.

Singer studied the causes of war scientifically through the collection of reproducible data in the hopes of eliminating wars and promoting peace. Born in Brooklyn, N.Y. on Dec. 7, 1925, Singer enlisted in the U.S. Navy two years after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Singer served as a deck officer on the USS Missouri at the end of World War II and on the USS Newport News during the Korean War. 

He received his undergraduate degree from Duke in 1946 and his doctorate from New York University in 1956. Singer served on U-M faculty from 1958 until his retirement in 2002.

Singer is best known as founder of the Correlates of War (COW) Project, which systematically collected data on every conflict since 1816. The project grew out of a 1963 grant from the Carnegie Corporation to U-M’s Center for Research on Conflict Resolution, a portion of which went to Singer and for the study of war.

Singer and his colleague, historian Melvin Small, generated a database, which tracked the frequency, participants, duration and battle deaths of wars and civil conflicts. The project grew to encompass data on diplomatic ties, geographic proximity, territorial changes, intergovernmental organizations, civil wars and the military, economic and demographic dimensions of power. 

His subsequent book describing the COW data, “The Wages of War,” published in 1972, established a definition of war that influenced the work of hundreds of scholars. He sought to generate explanatory knowledge about the causes of war that could, in practice, eliminate it. The data his research produced is still used by the U.S. Department of Defense and other military organizations and widely is recognized as the definitive collection of data on international conflict.

During his years at U-M, he received grants from the National Science Foundation, the Carnegie Foundation, the Guggenheim Foundation, the World Society Foundation, and the U.S. Institute for Peace. His achievements brought him honorary degrees from Northwestern University and Binghamton University. He also received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Conflict Process Section of the American Political Science Association and the Founder’s Medal from the Peace Science Society, and he served as president of the Peace Science Society (International) and the International Studies Association.

Singer wrote or edited more than 20 books, over 100 scholarly articles and book chapters, and over 50 other publications.

Singer was known as an outstanding teacher and mentor. He involved graduate and undergraduate students in his research, guiding probably thousands of political science students over the years.

Singer is survived by his wife, Diane Macaulay of Ann Arbor; daughters Annie Singer of Washington, D.C., and Katie Singer of Montclair, N.J.; and two grandchildren, Kayla and Jake Ephros of Montclair, N.J.

A public memorial service is planned for the spring in Ann Arbor.

— Submitted by Jim Morrow, Center for Political Studies

Robert Ward

Robert Ward, former Japanese politics specialist, died Dec. 7, the 68th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor. He was 93.

Born in San Francisco in 1916, Ward decided against taking over the air conditioner installation business started by his father. He decided instead to pursue a doctoral degree in political science at Berkley studying the Balkans. Ward’s studies were interrupted by World War II. He was recruited by the Naval Intelligence Service, which sent him to school to study Japanese. A year later, he was assigned to General Douglas MacArthur’s staff as a translator.

After the war, Ward returned to graduate school but focused now on Japanese studies. He received his doctorate in 1948. From 1948-73, Ward was on the faculty of U-M serving as a professor of political science from 1948-73 and director of the Center for Japanese Studies from 1965-68 and 1971-73.

Ward required his graduate students to spend time in Japan doing fieldwork. He spent a total of four years himself living in Japan with his family between 1950-68. His family describes him as spending his life striving to promote international understanding and cooperation. Ward led the Japan-U.S. Friendship Commission that was established by President Ford to promote educational and cultural ties between the two countries. His efforts were recognized by the Japanese government, which awarded him the Order of the Sacred Treasure in 1984.

Ward served as president of both the American Political Science Association and the Association for Asian Studies during 1972-73. He also was a member of the national council of the National Endowment for the Humanities from 1968-73. He also served as chairman of the board of directors of the Social Science Research Council and of the American Panel of the United States-Japan Conference on Cultural and Educational Interchange. Ward was a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and of the American Philosophical Society.

He is the author of eight books and many articles in the fields of comparative politics — especially Japanese politics — international relations and political development. Ward served as president of both the American Political Science Association and the Association for Asian Studies during 1972-73. He also was a member of the national council of the National Endowment for the Humanities from 1968-73.

His funeral was private. He is survived by his daughter Erica and her husband Ralph Gerson; his brother John Ward of California; two granddaughters; and several nieces and nephews.

— Submitted by Lili Kivisto, Department of Political Science, LSA

Rolf Freter

Rolf Freter, a gifted teacher, retired professor of microbiology and a pioneer scientist who paved the way for several of the hottest areas of contemporary microbiology, died on New Years Eve.

Born in Hamburg, Germany, in 1926, Freter received his doctorate in microbiology from Goethe University in Frankfort in 1951. He proceeded directly to postdoctoral work at the Department of Microbiology of the University of Chicago under Professor William Burroughs, an authority on Vibrio cholerae, the bacterium that causes the potentially fatal human disease, cholera. Freter’s early academic career was at Loyola University Medical School in Chicago, followed by Jefferson Medical College in Philadelphia. In 1966 he became full professor of microbiology at U-M, where he remained until retirement in 1996.

Freter’s encounter with the cholera organism initiated a scientific quest similar to the tradition of the early “microbe hunters” (e.g., Louis Pasteur and Robert Koch) at the dawn of this science in the late 19th century. Stimulated by several seemingly inexplicable aspects of cholera, Freter devoted his career to a thoughtfully penetrating analysis of the microbe-human interaction.

Working in a difficult field in which he had to invent technological tools (for which he is famous) for cultivating and studying populations of anaerobic bacteria, Freter tackled problems that intimidated others. As a result of his research the world learned of the importance and mechanism of local mucosal immunity in defense against intestinal pathogens, and that humans and other animals rely on the protection afforded by their natural bacterial inhabitants as the first line of defense against infection.

Today, the attention of molecular microbiologists, clinicians and the general public is directed to the burgeoning fields of probiotics and the importance of microbial consortia (microbiota) in human health.

In the Department of Microbiology and Immunology, Freter is remembered for his skill in introducing into the medical curriculum what he considered the essentials of pathogenic microbiology.

His colleagues marveled at a scientist, who was pioneering in the application of computer simulation to the dynamics of bacterial populations, and yet would turn his creative attention to ways to have medical students discover in the laboratory how and why hand-washing was crucial to medical practice. He inspired undergraduate and graduate students by sharing his awe and amazement of the human-microbe cooperative encounter, and how that interaction is important to human health.

— Submitted by Harry Mobley, Medical School, and Frederick Neidhardt, Medical School



Carrie Luke, on facilitating writing workshops: “It’s exciting to see the light bulb moments.”


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