Williams, L. Pearce
L. Pearce Williams, professor emeritus in the History of Science at Cornell University, died February 8, 2015, at Cayuga Medical Center in Ithaca, NY, at the age of 87. A tall and imposing figure, he revelled in the teaching of both the History of Science and the History of Western Civilization, and enjoyed giving his presentation, "The Notorius Note-Taking Lecture," to students entering the university during his years as a chair professor at Cornell. Williams is survived by his devoted wife of 65 years, Sylvia Alessandrini Williams, as well as his four children: Dave Williams of Newark, Ohio, and his two children Linus and Vivian; Alison Williams Lewin of Wilmington, Delaware, and her three children, Eleanor with spouse James, Sylvia, and Gregory with spouse Madeline; Adam Williams and his companion Lynne Frey of Camden, Maine; and Sarah Bonnefoi and spouse Marc of Basking Ridge, New Jersey, and their four children, Marie, Anne, Elena and Theo. Pearce enrolled at Cornell University in 1944 as a chemical engineer, but immediately left Cornell for a year's service in the US Navy. Upon his return to the university, he found his lifelong passion for history of science through a required course taught by the late Henri Guerlac. Pearce graduated from Cornell with honors with a BA in 1949, and then pursued a Ph.D. at Cornell, which he completed in 1952. He taught at Yale and the University of Delaware, and was delighted to return to teach at his alma mater in 1960. His biography of Michael Faraday won the Pfizer Prize and he authored several other books and numerous articles in his field. He often expressed his opinions on various issues to the Ithaca Journal and the Cornell Daily Sun, gaining him a certain local notoriety, or fame, depending on one's point of view. Pearce's more physical activities included hunting with his beloved Weimeraners, gaining a black belt in karate, playing touch football games with his colleagues and students on Sundays, and wood chopping, a benefit of which was his hours spent by his fireside. A memorial service will be held later in the year; time and place will be forthcoming. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Pearce's second home: The Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections, Carl A. Kroch Library, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY 14853. Through his diverse and varied pursuits, Pearce touched many lives. As he would have said, "I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith," (2 Timothy 4:7 KJV).
Published in Ithaca Journal on Feb. 9, 2015.