Richard G. Heck Jr.

Philosopher Richard Heck earned a bachelor's degree in mathematics from Duke, studied philosophy at Oxford, and got his Ph.D. at MIT in 1991...

Philosopher Richard Heck earned a bachelor's degree in mathematics from Duke, studied philosophy at Oxford, and got his Ph.D. at MIT in 1991. When he came to Harvard that year as assistant professor, his reddish hair fell almost to the small of his back and he had an enormous beard. A senior colleague, conservative in matters presentational, was said to have remarked that with hair like that, Heck had better be good. His areas of specialization are philosopy of language, logic, and mathematics, but he is best known for his work on philosopher Gottlob Frege, who died in 1925. Few could read Frege's seminal study, for it was written in obscure and idiosyncratic mathematical notations. Heck learned to read it. His most recent published article, in Philosophia Mathematica, is "Grundgesetze der Arithmetik I § 10" and his latest paper, presented at the University of Lisbon, is "Do Demonstratives Have Senses?" Both concern Frege. Recreationally, Heck is a computer programmer and an audiophile, favoring sound equipment designed by Nelson Pass. He likes jazz and serious rock--for instance, the work of King Crimson, which he says is "rhythmically and harmonically extremely complex and doesn't get played on the radio a lot." He has a listening room in the basement of his home--which he shares with his journalist wife, Nancy Weil, their daughter Isobel, and cats Cosmo and Bob--filled with nothing but audio equipment and recordings, including 1,500 vinyl records. After he got tenure last summer, he cut his hair to just below his shoulders. Feeling that an equivocal act, just before Christmas he cut it to where it is now. Has the new look changed his life? Yes. He is no longer occasionally accused of being a draft dodger.

 

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