Pauline Maier, Distinguished Historian of the American Revolution, Dies at 75

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Pauline Maier receiving the George Washington Book Prize in 2011 for her book Ratification: The People Debate the Constitution, 1787 - 1788. Credit: Wiki Commons.


Pauline Maier, a distinguished historian of the American Revolution who taught at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology for thirty-five years, passed away Monday morning at the age of seventy-five.

The cause of death was reportedly lung cancer.

Born Pauline Rubbelke in St. Paul, Minnesota in 1938, Pauline Maier attended Radcliffe College as an undergraduate and was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship to the London School of Economics before receiving her PhD from Harvard University in 1968 under the tutelage of Bernard Bailyn. (Her husband Charles also received his PhD in European history from Harvard.)  Throughout her long and varied career, Professor Maier was one of the leading public intellectuals in the United States, and was one of the formative "neo-Whig" historians of the American Revolution, along with Gordon Wood and Edmund Morgan.

In addition her years at MIT, Maier also taught at Harvard, the University of Massachusetts-Boston, the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and Yale University. She also served in leadership roles with various professional organizations, most recently as the president of the Society of American Historians.

She was the recipient of numerous awards for her teaching and scholarship, including the Fraunces Tavern Museum Book Award and the George Washington Book Prize for her last book, Ratification: The People Debate the Constitution, 1787-1788.

Her other books include From Resistance to Revolution: Colonial Radicals and the Development of American Opposition to Britain, 1765-1776 (1972), The Old Revolutions: Political Lives in the Age of Samuel Adams (1980), and American Scripture: Making the Declaration of Independence (1998), which was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award for General Nonfiction in 1998.

Professor Maier was also an early pioneer in the digital revolution transforming the history profession. While at MIT, she helped to design an online game to educate students about different social groups in revolutionary America in 2004, and designed one of the first online history courses through MIT's open courseware program in 2006. She has also served as an advisor to the History News Network since its creation in 2001.

She is remembered by her students as a superb teacher and mentor. Sam Ryan, a user experience designer at Amazon, tweeted that Maier "inspired & improved my undergrad education" at MIT; Erica Pino, a recent MIT graduate, wrote on her blog that "I truly adored [Professor Maier], and still aspire to be as devoted to and as passionate about my research as she was to and about hers."

The Twittersphere on Monday and Tuesday was full of remembrances, condolences, and celebrations of Professor Maier's work from colleagues and former students. Harvard's David Armitage called her "a great historian and a great friend"; Taylor Stoermer, a researcher at Colonial Williamsburg, tweeted shortly before her death that Pauline Maier "taught importance of brushing away ideological trends and misconceptions to do fearless, forthright history."

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