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Distinguished scholar Robert Wesson dies at Stanford

STANFORD--Hoover Institution Senior Research Fellow Robert Wesson, a distinguished scholar in political science, natural science and philosophy, died at his Stanford university campus home on Saturday, June 29, from cancer. He was 71 years old.

A recognized expert in political science, Wesson's latest research focused on biology and the evolutionary process. His intense interest in scientific philosophy was reflected in his final volumes, Beyond Natural Selection (MIT Press, 1991) and Cosmos and Metacosmos (Open Court, 1989).

He wrote more than 30 books on political science, international affairs, communism and Latin America and many commentary pieces for newspapers and magazines. His books include Modern Government (1985), The Russian Dilemma (1974) and Politics, Policies and Economic Development in Latin America (1984).

"His expansive intellectual curiosity was a welcome personal attribute," said John Raisian, Hoover Institution director. "He was an extremely generous person, and we benefited greatly from his presence."

Wesson established the Robert Wesson Endowment for Scholarship on Scientific Philosophy and Public Policy with a $1 million gift to the Hoover Institution earlier this year.

He also endowed the Wesson Lecture Series on Problems of Democracy through the School of Humanities and Sciences at Stanford and the Wesson Lecture Series in International Relations through the Institute for International Studies at Stanford.

Defining the human condition in his volume Beyond Natural Selection, Wesson wrote: "We are subject to certain limitations, but we have indefinite capacities of improvement -- it is the special quality of life that it can always grow and better itself. As evolution advances, it derives less from chance or random variation and more from choice.

"Ours is the moment when biological evolution gives way to cultural-informational evolution, with all its explosive potential. It is a supreme glory that humans can decide what destiny they desire and, if wise enough, can make their own evolution."

Wesson was born in Washington, D.C. on March 11, 1920. He received his bachelor's degree from the University of Arizona, master's degree from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, and doctoral degree in political science from Columbia University. He served in the U.S. Foreign Service in Brazil and Colombia, and spent several years in various Latin American countries.

He taught at Bates College in Maine, was a visiting scholar at St. Anthony's College in Oxford, and was a professor of political science at the University of California-Santa Barbara from 1964 to 1977.

Wesson joined the Hoover Institution as a scholar-curator in 1977 and was appointed a senior research fellow in 1978. He is survived by his children, Alfredo, Carlos, Elizabeth, Marisol, Laura, Carol, Richard and Eric, as well as his brother, Laurence.

A memorial service will be held at the Hoover Institution later this month; no date has yet been set. --gw/kpo--


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