In Memoriam: Maria Rosa Antognazza

It was with great sadness that we learnt that Maria Rosa Antognazza, professor at King’s College London and chair of the BSHP, passed away on 28 March 2023 after a short period of serious illness. Rosa was a brilliant scholar, a wonderful colleague, and a good friend to many among us. She will be missed immensely in the BSHP community.

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I met Maria Rosa for the first time in 2000, when she was moving out of the office in which I was moving in, at the Old Brewery in Aberdeen. Since then, my admiration for her as a scholar and as a person has always gone hand in hand with a sense of friendship, and mutual support. Even when we met at BSHP events, we always found time for a chat in our shared native language about life, family, and the state of the world. I never fully grasped how she managed to do so many things so well. We know the exceptional quality of her work, and many have witnessed her superior organizational abilities; the BSHP has thrived under her guidance as chair, and the conferences and lectures she organised were always a great success. She was always ready to advise and promote junior scholars; some of them told me that they are deeply grateful to her not only for her good guidance, but also for the kind way in which it was delivered. Despite her many successes, she remained humble; she told me that when she received the email announcing that her book had won the Pfizer award, she assumed that it was a practical joke. She did an enormous amount of important work despite the great demands of her private life, and she did it all with a smile and a sparkle in her eyes.

Cristina Chimisso, Professor of Philosophy, The Open University

I had the pleasure and the honour of becoming acquainted with Maria Rosa many years ago. She was an outstanding scholar with a great passion for what she did, but what impressed me the most was her kindness and her modesty. I remember with great sorrow the beautiful days we spent together in 2016, when we both participated in a conference in Jerusalem. We visited the town together with another Italian colleague, Igor Agostini. I remember in particular our visit to the Gethsemane, which we finally managed to reach after walking for half an hour under a scorching sun. I shall always carry these precious memories with me.

Giuliana Di Biase, Professor of Moral Philosophy, Dept. of Literature, Art and Social Sciences, G.d'Annunzio University of Chieti-Pescara, Italy

I first met Rosa while she was still at Aberdeen, probably in 1998. For reasons I never quite grasped she was running the Reid Project there, and I went to several events she organised. This was my introduction to the proper study of the history of philosophy, and I remember Rosa being welcoming, supportive, and reassuringly cheerful. And that is how she always was when we met at workshops and conferences over the years. She combined deep seriousness with good humour and wit, and in both her manner and in her writing was an example to us all. I will miss her deeply.

James Harris, St. Andrews

C'est avec une immense peine que les collègues et amis francophones de Maria Rosa Antognazza, professeure au King's College de Londres, ont appris son décès soudain le 28 mars 2023.
Nous perdons une très grande spécialiste de Leibniz et de la philosophie moderne, mais surtout une amie très chère, dont chacun appréciait à la fois la justesse du jugement, la gentillesse et l'extrême bienveillance.
Rosa participait régulièrement aux événements scientifiques que nous organisions sur Leibniz. Elle va terriblement nous manquer.
Les membres de la Société d'études leibniziennes de langue française adressent, en ces moments difficiles, leurs sincères condoléances à sa famille.

Paul Rateau, Président de la Société d'études leibniziennes de langue française

I knew Rosa first as Head of Department during my MPhil at King’s, then as a fellow member (with husband Howard Hotson) of the Council for the Defense of British Universities, as a colleague at King’s when I returned to teach there, and finally as Chair of the British Society for the History of Philosophy, of which I am Treasurer. Throughout Rosa has been a mentor and role model to me. She embodied an incredible balance to which I aspire: she was brilliant yet humble, kind yet fierce when it was needed, modestly glamorous, incredibly hard working yet totally devoted to her family. She spoke with such pride and love of her children. I recall sitting with her during a CBDU talk by Howard, in which he defended UK Higher Education from an attack by a fellow speaker. Her eyes shone with admiration as he responded eloquently, before joining in herself with a controlled yet pointed response.

At her 2014 BSHP Chair’s lecture she encouraged me to read Plato at Oxford, demonstrating equal enthusiasm for the topic as for my own research. Although I join her in commitment to the values of the BSHP, in promoting the importance of history of philosophy, I must confess that I joined its management committee in no small part to have a reason to continue to work with Rosa. She was as inspiring as a person as an academic. She got things done – things of importance – but wanted them done right, and worked hard to make it so. She was a model of academic rigour, precision, and creativity. When I had my first child she gave me advice on how to balance early motherhood with academic work – naively optimistic that anyone could match her energy. I think one reason why it is hard to accept that she is gone is that she seemed so unstoppable. It was a privilege to know her. May her legacy be as unstoppable.

Katharine O’Reilly, Assistant Professor of Philosophy, Toronto Metropolitan University

One of my earliest memories of Rosa was when she attended a BSHP conference on Leibniz ('the Young Leibniz' I think it was, organised by Stuart Brown). She came with babe in arms -- something unusual in those days. But for me it encapsulates the extaordinary way in which she managed to maintain a balance between motherhood and an academic career. Not long afterwards she joined the BSHP management committee as secretary. And what an asset she was-- then and since. I particularly remember her support for the proposal which I mooted for instituting a graduate essay prize. Her support presaged the commitment to helping younger scholars which marked her chairmanship of BSHP, especially in the adverse times of Covid 19. It was only when she was elected chair that I realised how much it mattered to her to join the community of historians of philosophy, because she took it upon herself to remind me, with pleasure, of the phone call to invite her to join the MC which initiated her association with the BSHP. I remember Rosa with great affection--- petite but with presence, her sharp intelligence, her ability to get things done, ever courteous. as distinctive in her dress as in her wonderfully strong Italian accent, and her sense of humour. There is-- and was-- no one to compare.

Sarah Hutton, York

I met Rosa at a conference. She approached after my talk to ask a clarification question. I knew the titanic scholar that she was, so I was completely petrified. I was impressed of how supportive, warm, and kind she was. She was also extremely generous with her time and, of course, offered insightful, and illuminated feedback. I had the chance to interact with her in a couple of further events. Every single time she made me feel acknowledged and welcomed. I cannot stress how much this meant to me as a Latin American philosophy PhD in the UK. I will always be grateful to Rosa.

Antonio Salgado Borge, St Andrews

Je suis infiniment triste d'apprendre la mort de Maria Rosa. Cette nouvelle me bouleverse. J'avais espéré revoir Maria Rosa au moment du colloque ESEMP de Copenhague en septembre dernier, mais sa participation avait été annulée pendant l'été. Les dernières images que je garde ainsi d'elle sont celles d'un workshop organisé à la Maison Française d'Oxford en décembre 2019, avant la longue parenthèse du COVID. Ce sont des images joyeuses, d'un dîner au bord de la Cherwell après le workshop. Je sais que Maria Rosa travaillait depuis plusieurs années à un livre sur Knowledge and Belief, je l'avais entendue sur ce sujet à Bologne quelques mois avant de la revoir à la MFO. C'était magnifique, comme tout ce qu'elle faisait, et comme toute sa personne. Quelle perte immense, qui nous cause beaucoup de chagrin.

Martine Pécharman, EHESS

Maria Rosa Antognazza, professor at King’s College London and chair of the BSHP, wrote the most complete biography of Leibniz.

I very often consulted with great profit and quoted her book when I studied and translated in English and Italian Leibniz's legal works.

We have lost a great scholar.

Carmelo Massimo De Iuliis, Professor of Company Law at Catholic University of Sacred Heart in Milan

I started researching Leibniz in Vilnius, which nobody had done there at least since the interwar Republic. I felt alone in my quest until I managed to come to the Leibniz-Kongress in 2016. Maria Rosa Antognazza was teaching at the doctoral summer school there. She was so encouraging for me to get out there. I distinctly remember having a tour of Hanover with her, where she pointed out all the places Leibniz frequented. Later, when I formed my own ideas, she was probably the only one who supported my interpretation and was part of my doctoral thesis committee.

I think her early work on miracles and the trinity is very special. It's that kind of theology that has a calm aura but is piercing at the same time.I have moved on from the Leibniz scholarship and have found other topics that interest me more. However, people like Maria Rosa leave a lasting impression. She was very caring towards me and many others I know. May she rest in peace.

Laurynas Adomaitis, CEA/Saclay

I am terribly saddened by Rosa’s very sudden death, which is a great loss to her family, to her university, and to the wider academic community, for which she was a leading figure. I had become close to Rosa recently as I was due to take over from her as President of the BSHP, for which she was such a brilliant leader. She had taken the BSHP to a whole new level, bringing the academic community together, helping younger scholars, and raising the profile of the disciple. My hope was to follow in her example, but unfortunately my own health problems had made this impossible - and Rosa very kindly agreed to continue in her role for a further year, to see if I might be able to come back. She was so kind and supportive to me - but then suddenly she too became terminally ill herself, in a way that has shocked us all profoundly. I am so sorry not to have been able to speak to her more towards the end of her life, and to express how much we admired her and her crucial role, with her characteristic wisdom, humour and deep concern with others. She will be so very missed by us all.

Robert Stern, Dept of Philosophy, University of Sheffield

I came to King’s in 2011 for my PhD studies, not just to work with Rosa, but because of Rosa: When I was offered a place, I also received an invitation to meet her before making a decision. After having met Rosa, there was not much of a decision left to be made.

In what – as I realize only now with greatest gratitude – ultimately amounted to days of discussion, she accompanied me over several years through my research, taking my thoughts seriously but never letting me get away with lazy reasoning (or, for that matter, any laziness in general). It was under her guidance that my confused and half-baked ideas developed into a thesis. Not once did she turn up without having thoroughly read what I had sent her – regardless of when I had managed to submit it and how much of a strain all her other duties, of which she always shouldered many, imposed on her. Leibniz once wrote that the German language is a “peculiar touchstone for thoughts… because what can be said in it without borrowed or uncommon words is something righteous”. [1] Rosa is (and also referred to herself as) my Doktormutter, and all that is entailed in the meaning of this word is indeed most righteously said about her: She was an exemplar of modest brilliance, of a hard worker who would nevertheless always find time for those who were in need of it, of care for and benevolence towards the ideas as much as the well-being of others, of what I, as her student, can only aspire to become. What I do and how I do it has been shaped by her in a profound way, and I know that many others who had the extraordinary fortune to study under her guidance and care feel the same. I am incredibly fortunate to have known her and to know that she will continue to be present in what I do.

[1] Rosa would not condone sloppy referencing, let alone not providing any support for this claim, so: G.W. Leibniz, Deutsche Schriften, Erster Band, edited by G.E. Guhrauer, Berlin 1838, p. 453.

Sarah Tropper, University of Graz

Professor Antognazza served as a member of the Executive Committee of The Royal Institute of Philosophy for the past six years. She was an extraordinary person: a brilliant and learned philosopher, skilled in stewardship, kind and principled. We going to miss her calm counsel, wise judgement, and clear sense of direction. She was an invaluable member of our Executive Committee. The institute relies on the hard work of its trustees, who receive no reward beyond being part of furthering our charitable ends. We are very grateful to have had the chance to work with her.

Executive Committee, The Royal Institute of Philosophy

I was one of Rosa's graduate students from 2012 to 2018. It was a real privilege to work under the guidance of such a wonderful, amazing person. I 'm very sad, though also confident that she is resting in peace alongside her daughter. All my support to her family.

Gastón Robert

Rosa was a very special person: truly remarkable. I've been her colleague at King's for over ten years. Throughout that time she has been an incredibly inspiring, generous and supportive colleague, to me personally and, I know, to many others. Whenever I saw her I was struck by her intelligence, wisdom, strength and good humour. And she always looked fantastic too! She was beautiful in every way. I am simply full of admiration for her.

I last saw Rosa in Oxford in November 2022, when I gave the BSHP annual lecture. She chaired the lecture and we went for dinner afterwards -- Mogens Laerke and my husband John came along too. Rosa didn't mention that she was ill, and I had no idea I might be seeing her for the last time. We had a wonderful evening: she was as bright and fun to talk to as ever. This will remain a happy memory, though I am so sad and sorry that we have lost Rosa, too soon.

Clare Carlisle Tresch, Professor of Philosophy, King’s College London

I had only known Rosa a relatively short time (5 years or so) but had already found her to be a real inspiration, as a scholar and as a person. Her death is a great tragedy. She was an absolute authority on Leibniz, which made me rather nervous when presenting a paper on him at KCL, but she was so supportive and kind. Her work in philosophy of religion was also very influential, and her leadership in both of these areas was a great service. I really looked up to her, and was delighted to be developing a friendship with her in recent years through the BSPR and an overlapping period at Oriel College, Oxford. Although of course there will be many more who knew her better, I will feel her loss keenly.

Martin Pickup, Associate Professor of Philosophy, University of Birmingham

I know I can speak for the whole editorial team of the British Journal for the History of Philosophy in expressing our huge sadness at this tragic, tragic loss. Rosa, one of the finest historians of philosophy of her generation, was a deeply loved friend and mentor to many of us. Her guidance and example have been essential to the flourishing of the Journal over recent years, from advising on early modern thought to leading negotiations - always successfully! - with publishers. Rosa edited, alongside Marco Segala, our forthcoming Special Issue on Intuition in the History of Philosophy, completing her own paper on the Latin Medieval Tradition shortly before her passing. The Issue will be dedicated to her memory.

Sacha Golob, Reader in Philosophy, Kings College London, and Co-Editor of the British Journal for the History of Philosophy