Caroline Whitbeck
Caroline Whitbeck
Elmer G. Beamer-Hubert H. Schneider Emerita Professor in Ethics Case Western Reserve University

Caroline Whitbeck, Emerita Elmer G. Beamer-Hubert H. Schneider Professor in Ethics at Case Western Reserve University and Emerita Professor of philosophy, passed away on September 5, 2016.  Whitbeck was a respected philosopher of science, technology, and medicine. In addition to being a past chair of the OEC Advisory Group at the National Academy of Engineering (NAE), she was the founder of the Online Ethics Center before its move to the NAE and spent much of her professional energy on developing it as an educational resource in the fields of Engineering and Scientific Ethics.

Whitbeck held a bachelor's degree in mathematics from Wellesley College, a master's degree from Boston University, and a Ph.D. in philosophy from Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She was elected Fellow of the AAAS for her work in engineering ethics, and was a Phi Beta Kappa Visiting Scholar in 1994-95.

Whitbeck combined research and teaching interests in the philosophy of science, technology, and medicine; practical ethics; and feminist philosophy, with interest in education of a diverse student body for careers in engineering and the science-based professions. Her work in the philosophy of science extends from the philosophy of physics through the philosophy of medicine and medical research to engineering. She also made significant contributions to feminist philosophy and to medical ethics in the 1970s and 1980s. In the 1980s and 1990s, she developed the analogy between ethical problems and design problems, in particular, problems of engineering design and research design. She pioneered active learning methods in the teaching of engineering ethics and the responsible conduct of research, especially methods that place the learner in the position of the agent who must actually respond to the problem (rather than in the position of a judge who merely evaluates responses that have already been constructed) and made major contributions to the understanding of responsible research conduct in engineering and the physical sciences, including the CITI module on authorship in engineering research and "Trust and the Future of Research" for Physics Today and its Japanese language publication, Parity.   "Trust and the Future of Research" is available online (without graphics).

In 1995 she edited a special issue of Science and Engineering Ethics on trustworthy research. She also edited a special issue of the International Journal of Engineering Education on engineering ethics that appeared in 2005. Whitbeck served on the advisory board of Professional Ethics and on the Editorial Board of Science and Engineering Ethics. Her book, Ethics in Engineering Practice and Research, was published by Cambridge University Press in spring 1998, and the Japanese translation of the first half of that book, translated by Hiroshi Iino and Jun Fudano, was published by Misuzu Shobo in December 2000.  The second (revised) edition of Ethics in Engineering Practice and Research was released in 2011 with an entirely rewritten research ethics section.


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Cite this page: "Caroline Whitbeck" Online Ethics Center for Engineering 6/29/2009 OEC Accessed: Tuesday, March 28, 2017 <>