Those who knew and loved Karl Popper, as well as those who gained enlightenment and understanding from his philosophy, have cause to be grateful to Melitta Mew, who has died at the age of 89 years.
Melitta was born in Nürnberg and, apart from a few months when her school was evacuated to Johannisbad (now Janské Lázne in the Czech Republic), lived there throughout the Second World War. At the age of 17 she began work as a stenographer and translator at the International Military Tribunal, quickly becoming outstandingly proficient in the English language, before going on to be a court correspondent in 1948 in the subsequent American trials. In 1950 she took up a job in Düsseldorf, where she later met her future husband, Raymond Mew, while he was on a business visit to her employer. They married in 1952 and she became a British subject, for some years devoting herself to her young family. She worked for a while at the Royal Institute of International Affairs (Chatham House), and then in 1982 became Popper’s secretary and translator, and later his assistant, at the LSE. By this time Popper had begun again to write prolifically in German, and although Melitta had no special philosophical background, she was a superb organizer and proved herself ideally suited to deal with his many publications, as well as his voluminous correspondence.
After the death in 1985 in Vienna of Popper’s wife Hennie, and his return to the UK, Melitta and Raymond gently but effectively reorganized Popper’s life, selling Fallowfield, the house in Penn that he had lived in since the early 1950s, and establishing him in a substantial house in Kenley, about five miles from where they lived. For the next eight years Melitta visited Popper there nearly every day, and supported with unfaltering devotion both the man and his indefatigable attention to a host of scientific and philosophical problems. She and her husband travelled with him, invited his closest friends to birthday parties, cared for nearly every public aspect of his existence. It is not hard to be convinced that these last years of his life were among his happiest, and that for this happiness Melitta was primarily responsible.
Following Popper’s death in 1994, the Mews set up the Karl Popper Charitable Trust with the proceeds of the sale of the Kenley house, and they were the principal contributors to the Karl Popper Memorial Fund at the LSE. They negotiated the successful sale of Popper’s library to the Alpen-Adria-Universität Klagenfurt, and as his literary executors responded actively to the increasing interest in and demand for his writings.
The Alpen-Adria-Universität Klagenfurt is highly indebted to Melitta Mew. She was very helpful in transforming the library estate and the collection of manuscripts and photos into an archive which now is the Karl Popper Collection in the University Library. Moreover, as heir of the copyright of Popper’s work, she continued to spread the intellectual legacy of Karl Popper around the world. Effective October 1, 2008, Melitta Mew transferred the copyright to the Klagenfurt University Library, which implied the responsibility for continuing to deal with all kinds of requests to translate, re-publish, and quote from the 52 books by Sir Karl. In honour of her merits for the work of Karl Popper and for the Alpen-Adria-Universität Klagenfurt, the university bestowed on her the title of Honorary Citizen.
Raymond Mew died in 2000 at the age of 75. Melitta is survived by her sons Ronnie, who lives in South Africa, and Bernard, to whom we offer our condolences.