Renowned Historian Dies at Age 97 After Suffering From Parkinson's Disease

December 01, 2017Dec 01, 2017

It has been reported that Yale University scholar Vincent Scully, a renowned architectural historian and professor, has died at age 97. His impact on the historical profession was very impressive, inspiring generations of students that included popular US historian David McCullough. 

Scully died on November 30 at his home in Lynchburg, Virginia. He had been suffering from Parkinson's disease. 

Scully was a native of New Haven, Connecticut, which is the town that homes Yale. After graduating from Yale as an undergraduate, he eventually joined the faculty in 1947 and remained at the school for over 60 years. He was renowned for his creative ideas and incredible lecturing abilities, which attracted so many students that he would have stand-room-only audiences and would, at times, receive ovations when his lecture was finished. He was not only a historian who was widely appreciated in his field of study but also a symbol of grand lecturing — a symbol of the history department of Yale. 

But he had a large impact on both history and architecture, as is pointed out by

He was a great critic of urban renewal in the 1960s and 1970s and a leading advocate of historical preservation. Although an early supporter of Modernist style, he quickly reversed his support of it, claiming that it was a "simplistic" view of architecture, an arbitrary aesthetic, and something totalitarian in its thinking. The Washington Post writes that he saw the "emptiness at the core" of modern design.

Although he may not have thought himself as a conservative, in this regard he was an academic that conservatives can admire. He believed that culture should reflect something human, that culture should look to the past for guidance and wisdom, that culture should appreciate beauty.

"Practically alone among architectural scholars of the time, Dr. Scully began to emphasize the importance of the past," writes The Washington Post. "In his lectures, he stalked the stage, using a long wooden pointer to direct attention to images of Greek temples, the Sistine Chapel, French formal gardens, American Indian dwellings, New England town squares and Italian villages."

Architecture Philip Johnson referred to him as the "most influential architecture teacher ever." 

According to the Washington Post, Dr. Scully was by no means a cloistered academic. Rather, he influenced the world outside of academia. For instance, David McCullough, one of the most popular American historians currently writing, was greatly influenced by Scully, his former professor. And so was Maya Lin, a designer, as well as thousands of urban planners throughout the world.  

Dr. Scully was a brilliant man, too, who had a great love for history and literature. At times he would go rowing, and when he did, he could be heard citing Homer in the original Greek. 

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