My Tribute to Aaron Swartz

January 13, 2013 § Leave a comment

This post is not about an adventure at all, and I apologize if you’re looking for the usual Five Islands folderol. You won’t find it here.

You see, I’m participating in a tribute to a young man, Aaron Swartz, who killed himself on January 11, 2013, in New York. I’m sorry to say that I hadn’t heard of him before Friday. But when I read about Aaron’s amazing work, his passion, and his commitment to making the world a better place, I was moved to tears at the thought that it was all ended too soon. He was only 26 years old. Here’s what Professor Lawrence Lessig said about Aaron:

“Aaron had literally done nothing in his life ‘to make money.’ He was fortunate Reddit turned out as it did, but from his work building the RSS standard, to his work architecting Creative Commons, to his work liberating public records, to his work building a free public library, to his work supporting Change Congress/FixCongressFirst/Rootstrikers, and then Demand Progress, Aaron was always and only working for (at least his conception of) the public good. He was brilliant, and funny. A kid genius. A soul, a conscience, the source of a question I have asked myself a million times: What would Aaron think? That person is gone today, driven to the edge by what a decent society would only call bullying.”

So here’s where my dissertation comes in. Academics all over the world are posting their scholarship online for free as a tribute to Aaron. I don’t have much, just my almost-10-year-old dissertation on criminal women in eighteenth-century England. But I note that if someone wanted to look at it online, they would have to pay $35. So here it is, for free. For Aaron.


To learn more about Aaron and his work, I recommend Tim Lee’s piece in the Washington Post, Aaron Swartz, American Hero. On the injustice of the government’s prosecution of him, see Larry Lessig’s post, Prosecutor as Bully.


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