Vale Graham Nerlich FAHA: 1929-2022

It is with sadness that the Academy acknowledges the passing of Professor Graham Nerlich, a renowned philosopher with expertise in the areas of the meaning of life and ethics. He was elected to the Academy in 1978.

an autumn forest with a green square, pause, and triangle symbol over the top. The word 'Vale' is written in the square


Professor Nerlich was born on 23 November 1929. He graduated from the University of Adelaide in 1954 with a joint Honours degree in Philosophy and English Literature, and again in 1955 with a Master of Arts, also from the University of Adelaide. Between 1956 and 1958, he attained a Bachelor of Philosophy from the University of Oxford with a thesis titled “Sameness, Difference and Continuity”.

From 1958, he lectured at the University of Leicester and, in 1962, he returned to Australia to take up a position as Senior Lecturer at the University of Sydney. He remained at the University of Sydney for over a decade, moving to Associate Professor in 1967 and then to Professor in 1972. In 1973, he took up the position of Hughes Professor of Philosophy at the University of Adelaide, where he remained for the rest of his career, becoming Emeritus Professor in 1995. He was a visiting lecturer at Johns Hopkins University (1967), the University of Cambridge (1977), the University of Oxford (1980) and the University of California, San Diego (1989).

Professor Nerlich was elected to the Australian Academy of the Humanities in 1978 where he served as Chair of the Philosophy section from 1981 to 1987 and was a member of Council from 1989 to 1990. He was the Principal Editor of the Australasian Journal of Philosophy from 1968 to 1972 and a Founder of the Minkowski Institute for Foundational Studies.

He was a prolific scholar and author. His 1976 classic, The Shape of Space, was republished in 2009. Other monographs include Values and Valuing: Speculations on the Ethical Life of Persons (1990) and What Spacetime Explains: Metaphysical Essays (1994). He published numerous articles that appeared in The Journal of Philosophy, The British Journal for the Philosophy of Science and Pacific Philosophical Quarterly.

Graham Nerlich was a valued scholar and respected teacher who made immeasurable contributions to the field of philosophy.

Professor Nerlich passed away on 31 March 2022. We extend our deepest sympathies to his wife, Margaret, his children, the wider Nerlich family, and his friends and colleagues.

Read a poem, Graphology 71: the formation of a minuscule sun, written by John Kinsella in memory of and for Graham Nerlich.

Read an obituary for Graham Nerlich written by Keith Campbell.

In memory of our Fellows

Our Fellows, current and those who have died, have contributed extensively to the rich Australian humanities community. When an Academy Fellow dies, we honour their impact by publishing an obituary by another Fellow who has had a long and close association with them.

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Acknowledgement of Country

The Australian Academy of the Humanities recognises Australia’s First Nations Peoples as the traditional owners and custodians of this land, and their continuous connection to country, community and culture.