David Noble, intellectual, whistleblower and activist, dies at 65

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Two press releases on the death of Professor David Noble:

David Franklin Noble died of a sudden illness in Toronto on December 27, 2010.

Noble was an internationally acclaimed scholar and courageous activist, most recently on the faculty of York University in Toronto. Born in New York City, he held positions at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the Smithsonian Institution and Drexel University, as well as many visiting professorships.

Noble prized truth, justice and integrity, and he often found himself in conflict with powers-that-be. His numerous books challenged core ideas and major institutions of technology, science, corporate capitalism, and higher education. He provocatively critiqued the influence of religion on the scientific establishment, the historic exclusion of women from science, and "digital diploma mills" that attempt to commodify education.

As a relentless activist against injustice, he took the risks that no one else would take. He sued the Smithsonian Museum for stifling an exhibit that included information on the Luddites. He won an apology and settlement from Simon Fraser University for breaking its own rules in overriding a faculty decision to hire him as the J.S. Woodworth Chair, which combines teaching and research with active engagement in community issues. Noble charged his employer, York University in Toronto, with attempting to silence Palestinian students and their supporters. As an anti-Zionist Jewish atheist, he fought the university's closure on Jewish holidays and insisted that the university either observe no religious holidays or all religions' holidays.

Many academic colleagues and activists in the U.S. and Canada admired his tenacity. In 1998, he was awarded the Joe A. Callaway Award for Civic Courage, which "recognizes individuals who take a public stance to advance truth and justice, at some personal risk." The award honored Noble's decades as "a singular voice in seeking to fight the commercialization of higher education and to protect one of society's most precious assets, an independent intellectual capacity to engage the serious issues of our day."

Despite his public persona as a fighter, Noble's family describes him as sweet-spirited and compassionate, an intensely loving husband, proud father, and devoted friend, who celebrated life, music, and nature.

David Noble is survived by his wife Sarah Dopp of Toronto; daughters Clare O'Connor of Toronto, Helen O'Connor of Toulon, France, and Alice O'Connor of Vancouver, B.C.; sister Jane Pafford of Arcadia, Florida; brothers Doug Noble of Rochester, New York, and Henry Noble of Seattle, Washington. A public memorial service will be announced in the coming weeks.

Family and friends of David Noble





Canadian Arab Federation 

La Fédération Canado-Arabe



December 28, 2010

Canada loses David Noble, a great fighter for social and political justice.

With great sadness and deepest sorrow, we received the news of the passing away of Professor David Franklin Noble (July 22, 1945 - December 27, 2010).

Professor Noble was a critical historian of technology, science and education; a relentless crusader against the commercialization of higher education; a passionate champion of academic freedom; and a staunch opponent of discrimination. He last taught in the Division of Social Science, and the department of Social and Political Thought at York University in Toronto.

Professor Noble was an anti-Zionist Jew and a member of Independent Jewish Voices. In his critique of what he views as an academic-industrial system, Professor Noble has questioned Israel's strategic role in Western institutions on a broad basis.

In late November 2004, Professor Noble handed out a flyer to his class entitled "The York University Foundation: The Tail That Wags the Dog" proposing that there was a connection between pro-Israeli influence on the York Foundation and the university administration's treatment of vocal pro-Palestinian students on campus.

He later launched a $25 million libel suit at the Ontario Superior Court of Justice against York University, Jewish, and Israeli organizations for defamation and conspiracy, accusing them of having improperly criticized his flyer as anti-semitic.

In April 2006 Professor Noble lodged a complaint with the Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC), stating that cancellation of classes during certain Jewish holidays constituted discrimination against non-Jewish students. OHRC investigation found York's practice discriminatory and, before the issue made it to the Tribunal, York University agreed to stop the practice, starting in September 2009.

Throughout his life, whether at the personal or professional/academic level, Professor Noble was the embodiment of intellectual honesty, courage, and decency. Canada lost a truly noble person, both in name and in the essence of his character.

"Oh heart, if one should say to you that the soul perishes like the body, answer that the flower withers, but the seed remains." Kahlil Gibran

We at the Canadian Arab Federation, Palestine House, Islamic Society of York Region and Canadian Shia Muslims Organization extend our deepest sympathy to his wife Sarah, his three children, his two brothers [and a sister], and stand with them during this difficult period.

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