Thursday, August 11, 2022

Michael Falk (1931-2022)


Dr. Michael Falk, Canadian onomastician, Holocaust survivor; research chemist; piano, tennis, and Go player, passed away on 2nd August 2022. 

Michael (or just Mike for his friends and colleagues) was born in Warsaw, in 1931; he was almost eight when World War II began. Mike and his wife, Lilian, were both child survivors of the Holocaust; each of them survived the war in hiding, protected by Polish friends. Miraculously, Mike and both of his parents survived; they moved to Montreal in the late 1940s. He enrolled at McGill University, graduating with a degree in chemistry, and went on to earn a PhD at Université Laval. He met his wife in London in 1958, and they were married the following year in Israel. In late 1962 they moved to Halifax, where Mike began a long career as a research chemist at the National Research Council. After retiring, Mike kept busy researching linguistics and onomastics.

At the 23rd International Congress of Onomastic Sciences, he presented the results of his analysis regarding names of the weekly day of rest in various religions and language, research that he started in 2003. In Onomastica Canadiana, he explained the origin of the demonym ‘Haligonian’ signifying an inhabitant of Halifax, Nova Scotia, and clarified why there are so many matronymics among Jewish surnames. Dr. Falk’s hypothesis can be considered as a significant factor for the explanation of the frequent use of Jewish women's surnames in the Russian Empire. 


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