I can’t let the recent death of my friend and co-author Will H. Moore go by without remarking upon the impact that his scholarly work and mentorship had on the scientific community.
Will is probably best known as an expert on human rights, terrorism, and civil conflict. These topics are now in vogue in political science, but weren’t when Will started his career. It is in part because of his work that they are now recognized as important topics in the discipline.
But readers of The Political Methodologist may also know that Will made several contributions to the field of political methodology, although I’m not sure he considered himself “a methodologist.” I think his achievement is particularly notable because his interest in the field developed relatively late in his life. I think most of us struggle just to stay abreast of new developments and avoid becoming too out of date in our own narrow fields after we leave graduate school. Will grew well beyond his intial methods training, eventually co-authoring several papers that introduced new statistical models of special application to substantive problems in International Relations. He also co-authored a book, A Mathematics Course for Political and Social Research, that many graduate programs (including the one at Rice University, my current employer) use as a part of their methods training.
Will was a professor at Florida State University when I was a graduate student there. It was partly due to his mentorship that I decided to focus on political methodology. This was somewhat of a risky decision because FSU was not really known for producing methodologists at the time. Nevertheless, he and Bumba Mukherjee encouraged me to take a paper that I’d written for our MLE class and turn it into what eventually became my first publication in Political Analysis. Everything good in my life, at least as it pertains to my work, stems from that decision. I owe them both a lot.
It’s really sad to me that Will felt like a misfit because I know so many people that loved and respected him, including me. Will was one of the first people who suggested to me that I might be on the autism spectrum. I don’t know whether I am on that spectrum or not, but I do know how hard it is to say and do things that upset people without truly understanding why. Will did that a lot. I thought of him as someone who showed that you could succeed professionally and personally—you could make a real positive difference to science and in people’s lives—despite that. That was something I really needed to know at the time.
I remember that Will used to call FSU “the island of misfit toys” because (he felt) many of us landed there because of some issue or thing in our background that had kept us out of what he considered to be a more prestigious venue. I guess I’ve always thought the misfit toys were the only ones really worth knowing.
I’ll miss you, Will.