“Academic Endeavor Should have No Boundaries” – CEU Founding Member William Newton-Smith Dies at 80

William Newton-Smith (1943–2023)


William Newton-Smith, a Canadian philosopher of science, was one of the founding members and the first Chair of the Senate at the Central European University (CEU), and the Executive Director of the Open Society Foundations’ (OSF) International Higher Education Support Program.

The Blinken OSA Archivum preserves the Records of the Office of Bill Newton-Smith, comprising documents related to his activities within both CEU and OSF. The collection holds materials on the establishment of CEU and on programs and initiatives of OSF aiming at the economic recovery of Ukraine in 1997–1999 and the survival of the education system in Bosnia and Herzegovina in 1994–1996, as well as on the founder and sponsor of both entities, George Soros.

Below, we publish how the first issue of the CEU Gazette in 1991 portrayed Newton-Smith, when introducing him as CEU Executive Committee member:

Profile of William Newton-Smith in first issue of the CEU Gazette in 1991.
(HU OSA 211-0-1 Records of the Office of Bill Newton-Smith, Central European University)

“Newton-Smith has been involved in promoting academic contacts with Central Europe for many years. For more than 15 years he was a joint director of a philosophy of science course at the Inter-University Centre in Dubrovnik and helped found the journal, International Studies in the Philosophy of Science, which particularly seeks to publish work from the region. In 1980 he was arrested, interrogated and then expelled from Czechoslovakia for giving a talk on rationality in a private flat in Prague. The enormous international publicity surrounding his expulsion and that of two other Oxford philosophers was used to launch the Jan Hus Educational Foundation which supported ‘unofficial’ higher education for the last decade. Many of the dissident academics aided by the Foundation are new leading figures in the new Republic. ‘Academic endeavor should have no boundaries,’ he says. ‘So after Dubrovnik and Jan Hus, it is wonderful to have another opportunity to help break down barriers through the CEU.’”

On the website of CEU, the Archivum’s parent institution, Blinken OSA Archivum Director and CEU Professor István Rév bids farewell to Bill with the following words:

“He sacrificed part of his career for fighting against authoritarian regimes in East and Central Europe, helping discriminated scholars, persecuted academics, and students living under communist regimes. . . . He was a modest, unpretentious, and good person, who has always downplayed his central role in fighting authoritarianism with the force of pure reason, by establishing clandestine, illegal, or legal educational institutions.”