Correction appended: An earlier version of this story identified the chair of Wayne State University’s Political Science Department as David Gellar. His name is Daniel Geller.
University Prof. Emeritus J. David Singer, an internationally renowned teacher, researcher and scholar of international politics, died in Ann Arbor on Dec. 28 at the age of 84.
Singer, who had been hospitalized since last September when he was involved in a car accident, is survived by his wife Diane Macaulay, who currently resides in Ann Arbor, his daughters Annie and Katie Singer and his two grandchildren.
Singer joined the Political Science Department at the University in 1958, where he remained a professor until 2007. As a professor and researcher, Singer focused on finding ways to eradicate war through a scientific approach.
While at the University, he founded the Correlates of War project in 1963, which collects scientific knowledge about war. Daniel Geller, professor and chair of the political science department at Wayne State University, described the project as “the most important advance in the scientific study of international conflict in the 20th century.”
Geller added that the project, which has a database of the history of wars and conflicts among states since 1816, is used today by the U.S. government as a guide for the formation of American foreign policy.
The Wages of War, one of the books published during the project in 1972, became the resource for the standard definition of war used by numerous scholars throughout the world, according to Geller.
Singer served as a consultant to the U.S. departments of State, Defense and Navy. Most recently, Singer served on the U.S. Strategic Command 2010 Nuclear Posture Review to address national security issues.
While he taught at the University, Singer received numerous grants from the National Science Foundation, Carnegie Foundation and the United States Institute of Peace.
University alum Shahryar Minhas, who took a class with Singer in 2007 and worked on research projects with him, described Singer as an “amazing teacher and an important mentor.”
Minhas added that Singer was a “very open” and “exciting” teacher, who linked political theories with stories from his own life.
“He was also an important person in terms of helping students think through their ideas about where they want to go and what they want to do,” Minhas said.
Despite his academic prestige, Annie Singer said her father was “just a thoughtful, caring, generous, attentive guy,” adding that he also had a serious side.
“As we were growing up, what he always told us was that war was very destructive and that he was devoting his work to helping people find ways to eliminate it,” she said.
David Singer joined the United States Navy as a sailor two years after Pearl Harbor was bombed, according to Annie Singer who described him as a “patriotic kid.”
Singer was greatly affected by the deaths of his fellow servicemen while he was enlisted in the Navy, Annie Singer said. Despite his feelings, Singer re-enlisted in the Navy during the Korean War.
But it wasn’t until he began pursuing his Ph.D. at New York University and became an officer at the Officer Candidate School, that Singer truly began taking an anti-war stance, according to Annie Singer.
“He put it all together and realized that war was bad and could be prevented if someone put their mind to it — that you could prevent war if you were smart enough about it,” Annie Singer said.
Annie Singer said though her father was a prominent expert in the field, she’s pleased his legacy is his relationship with students, who have dedicated numerous books to him.
“He’s being remembered as a mentor, and I think that’s perfect,” she said.