Deaths of philosophers  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

The documented history of philosophy is often said to begin with the notable death of Socrates. Since that time, there have been many other noteworthy deaths of philosophers.

  • 435 BCE According to legend, Empedocles leapt to his death into the crater of Etna.
  • 420 BCE According to some reports, Protagoras died in a shipwreck.
  • 399 BCE Socrates, condemned to death for corrupting the young, drank hemlock amongst his friends as described in Plato’s Phaedo.
  • 338 BCE According to legend, Isocrates starved himself to death.
  • 323 BCE Accounts differ regarding the death of Diogenes of Sinope. He is alleged to have died from eating raw octopus, from being bitten by a dog, and from holding his breath. He left instructions for his corpse to be left outside the city walls as a feast for the animals and birds.
  • 320 BCE Ancient sources tell us that Nicocreon the tyrant had Anaxarchus pounded to death in a mortar with iron pestles; Anaxarchus is said to have made light of the punishment.
  • 270 BCE Epicurus died of kidney stones.
  • 207 BCE Chrysippus is said to have died from laughter after giving wine to his donkey and seeing it attempt to eat figs.
  • 52 BCE Lucretius is alleged to have killed himself after being driven mad by taking a love potion.
  • 65 CE Seneca was forced to commit suicide after falling out with Emperor Nero.
  • 415 Hypatia was killed by a mob of Christians.
  • 430 St. Augustine died in Hippo while the city was under siege by Vandals
  • 526 Boethius was strangled on the orders of the Ostrogoth king Theodoric by whom he was employed.
  • 1141 Judah Ha-Levi was killed on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem.
  • 1180 Abraham Ibn Daud was martyred.
  • 1277 Peter of Spain was killed by the collapse of a roof.
  • 1284 Siger of Brabant was stabbed to death by his clerk.
  • 1415 John Hus was executed at the Council of Constance.
  • 1535 Thomas More was executed by beheading in 1535 after he had fallen out of favour with King Henry VIII.
  • 1572 Girolamo Maggi was executed by strangulation on the orders of a prison captain in Constantinople; Maggi had been incarcerated after being arrested during the Turkish siege of Famagusta.
  • 1572 Peter Ramus was killed in the St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre.
  • 1600 Giordano Bruno was burnt by the Inquisition.
  • 1619 Lucilio Vanini was also burnt by the Inquisition.
  • 1626 Francis Bacon died of pneumonia, contracted while stuffing snow into a chicken as an experiment in refrigeration.
  • 1640 Uriel da Costa, after being beaten and trampled by a religious group he had offended, went home and shot himself.
  • 1650 René Descartes was killed by a cold acquired through his rising early to instruct Queen Christina of Sweden.
  • 1677 Baruch Spinoza died of a pulmonary ailment, thought to be either tuberculosis or silicosis, brought on by inhaling glass dust while working as a lens grinder.
  • 1683 Algernon Sidney was executed for treason.
  • 1794 The Marquis de Condorcet died in prison.
  • 1831 Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel died of a gastrointestinal disease during a cholera outbreak in Berlin.
  • 1866 William Whewell was thrown from his horse and sustained fatal injuries.
  • 1882 William Jevons was drowned while bathing.
  • 1901 Paul Rée fell to his death from a mountain.
  • 1903 Otto Weininger committed suicide by shooting himself.
  • 1906 Ludwig Boltzmann hanged himself.
  • 1911 Paul Lafargue died with his wife, Laura Marx, in a suicide pact.
  • 1928 Alexandr Bogdanov died as a result of one of his experiments in blood transfusion.
  • 1930 Frank P. Ramsey died after contacting jaundice at the age of 26.
  • 1931 Jacques Herbrand died in a mountaineering accident in the Alps at the age of 23.
  • 1936 Moritz Schlick was murdered by an insane student.
  • 1937 Gustav Shpet was executed after being accused of involvement in an anti-Soviet organization.
  • 1937 Antonio Gramsci died during his imprisonment by Mussolini.
  • 1939 Stanisław Ignacy Witkiewicz committed suicide by taking an overdose of Veronal and trying to slit his wrists a day after the Soviet invasion of Poland; it was planned to be a joint suicide with a close friend of his but she survived the attempt.
  • 1940 Walter Benjamin committed suicide at the Spanish-French border, after attempting to flee from the Nazis.
  • 1940 Leon Trotsky was axe murdered.
  • 1941 Henri Bergson died of pneumonia in occupied Paris, which he supposedly contracted after standing in a queue for several hours in order to register as a Jew.
  • 1941 Kurt Grelling was killed by the Nazis.
  • 1943 Simone Weil starved herself to death.
  • 1944 Giovanni Gentile was murdered by communist partisans.
  • 1945 Dietrich Bonhoeffer was executed by hanging.
  • 1945 Miki Kiyoshi died in prison; he had been imprisoned after helping a friend on the run from the authorities.
  • 1948 Mohandas Gandhi was shot and killed by a Hindu zealot.
  • 1954 Alan Turing is believed to have committed suicide by eating a cyanide-poisoned apple, allegedly due to chemical depression.
  • 1960 Albert Camus died in an automobile accident.
  • 1961 Maurice Merleau-Ponty died of a stroke while preparing a lecture on Descartes.
  • 1969 Theodor Adorno developed heart palpitations after attempting to climb a 3000 metre mountain, and subsequently suffered a heart attack.
  • 1971 Richard Montague was beaten to death, presumably by a male prostitute.
  • 1973 Amilcar Cabral was assassinated while fighting for the independence of Portuguese colonies in Africa.
  • 1977 Jan Patočka died of an apoplexy after having been interrogated by the Czechoslovak secret police for eleven hours.
  • 1978 Kurt Gödel starved himself to death by refusing to eat for fear of being poisoned.
  • 1979 Evald Ilyenkov committed suicide.
  • 1979 Nikos Poulantzas committed suicide by jumping out of the twentieth floor of his apartment building.
  • 1980 Roland Barthes was struck in the street by a laundry van after leaving a luncheon with French President Francois Mitterrand.
  • 1983 Arthur Koestler committed joint suicide with his third wife, Cynthia, by taking an overdose of drugs after a painful struggle with disease.
  • 1984 Michel Foucault was the first high-profile French personality to die of AIDS after contracting HIV.
  • 1994 David Stove committed suicide by hanging himself after a painful struggle with disease.
  • 1994 Sarah Kofman committed suicide on Nietzsche’s birthday.
  • 1994 Guy Debord committed suicide by shooting himself after a painful struggle with polyneuritis.
  • 1995 Gilles Deleuze committed suicide by jumping out of his fourth-story apartment window.
  • 2007 André Gorz committed joint suicide with his wife by lethal injection.

Executed philosophers[1]

Further reading

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