George Nakhnikian died on Monday afternoon, July 30, at age 91. Born in 1920 in Varna, Bulgaria, George was of Armenian ancestry. His father and both his grandfathers were priests of the Armenian Church. The family moved to Lebanon when George was ten. They lived there for three years before coming to the United States in 1933 and settling in the Boston area. George earned his undergraduate degree in chemistry from Harvard. During the Second World War he served for two years with the United States Army in Europe. He then returned to Harvard where he earned his M.A. and Ph.D. degrees, both in philosophy.His first full-time academic appointment came in 1949 at Wayne State University, with which he was associated until 1968. Between 1955 and 1956, he served as visiting assistant professor and Carnegie Intern in general education at Brown University, and in 1965-66 he was named a Fulbright Scholar at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland.
In 1956 he was appointed the Chair of the Wayne State Philosophy Department. Over the course of the next decade, and almost single-handedly, he built it into a department that became well-known and highly respected by philosophers nationally. Then, after a wide-ranging search for an outside chair to revitalize the Department of Philosophy at IU, he was appointed Chair in 1968. He deserves much of the credit for the department’s rise to national and international prominence. He retired from IU in 1987.--George’s own scholarly work in philosophy focused on several great historical figures and on various problems in contemporary moral theory. In addition to his Introduction to Philosophy, published in 1967, he edited or co-edited two important anthologies, Morality and the Language of Conduct (1963) and Bertrand Russell’s Philosophy (1974). His last article was published as recently as 2004.