Correction Appended: This article said Anatol Rapoport served in the U.S. Air Force during World War II. The U.S. Air Force was not formed until 1947. Before that it was called the U.S. Army Air Forces and the U.S. Army Air Corps.
Anatol Rapoport, one of the leaders of the peace movement on campus in the 1960s, died in Toronto on Jan. 20. He was 95.
Rapoport, a former professor of mathematical biology in the Medical School’s Mental Health Research Institute, helped plan the University’s first teach-in protest against the Vietnam War.
The protest was one of the first of its kind nationwide, said his former colleague J. David Singer, a professor emeritus of political science.
Faculty members decided to hold a teach-in rather than go on strike in protest. They wanted to make a statement without forcing the University to close, Singer said.
Rapoport also helped create a “Peacemobile” that traveled the Ann Arbor area distributing pamphlets, said Anthony Rapoport, his son.
“Our house was a center for anti-war activity,” Rapoport said.
Rapoport said his father’s ideas helped unite University students and faculty around a common goal and erased the generational gap between them. Anatol Rapoport was discouraged that his efforts at the University didn’t seem to have an impact on the government’s policy, Anthony Rapoport said.
While at the University, Anatol Rapoport also helped organize the University’s now-defunct Center for Research on Conflict Resolution.
“He was very happy at the U of M,” Anthony said. “He enjoyed his experiences there and his colleagues.”
After serving with the U.S. Army Air Force during World War II, Rapoport felt distressed that the U.S. immediately entered the Cold War with the then-Soviet Union, his son said.
Singer said Rapoport’s distaste for American policy could have stemmed from his childhood. He was born in tsarist Russia and spent part of his childhood in the Soviet Union under communist rule.
“He saw what the Stalin guys were doing to Russia and the Russian people,” Singer said.
Singer speculated that he may have seen the same things happening in America.
Anthony Rapoport said his father was alarmed about the possibility of nuclear war and worried that American politics had grown to depend on war.
In 1970, he moved his family to Canada to pursue a position as a professor of psychology and mathematics at the University of Toronto.
“My parents both felt that they didn’t want to keep the family in the United States,” Anthony Rapoport said.
Anatol Rapoport was the first professor of peace and conflict studies at the University of Toronto.
“He was a serious loss because we needed him at Michigan,” Singer said. “And in a sense, we drove him out.”
During his lifetime, Rapoport integrated the fields of psychology and mathematics with his interest in conflict resolution.
He did extensive work in game theory, believing that “the idea of a game was a civilized way of engaging a rival without a fight,” Singer said.
Anthony Rapoport said his father came up with the idea of war as a global institution.
“The sides that are opposing one another are actually working together,” he said. “The result is that humanity is threatened and dominated by wars.”
Singer said contemporary professors have grown to specialize in one specific area, while Rapoport straddled the lines between mathematics, biology and the social sciences.
“I considered him a fully authentic person,” Singer said of his former colleague. “He was not in showbiz. The academic world is much the poorer for the disappearance of men like Rapoport.”
Rapoport is survived by his wife Gwen, his children Anya, Alexander and Anthony, and his two grandchildren, Leo and Erin.
A scholarship fund has been established in his name at the Trudeau Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies at the University of Toronto.