Remembering Martin and Virginia Davis

My parents Martin and Virginia Davis both died on Sunday, January 1, 2023. They were in their nineties. My father had been sick for a long while and in a great deal of pain, so in some ways his death is a relief. Martin and Virginia had been married for 71 years, and Virginia said she didn’t want to live without Martin.

After the hospice nurse confirmed Martin’s death, Virginia kissed him and then went back to bed. A short time later she was gone. I think she died of a broken heart. Both were peaceful looking in death. It was as if Martin held out his hand to Virginia, and said, “Come on. Let’s go!”

Martin and Virginia in 2011 © Harold Davis

My parents soon after they met (circa 1951) 

Both my parents were remarkable and unconventional people. Here’s what my brother Nathan wrote about Martin’s professional career:

Martin Davis  was considered a pioneering figure in the history and development of the computer science field. In his last decade, he was regarded the primary world exponent of Alan Touring’s seminal work in logic and computability theory (they shared the same same thesis advisor at Princeton University—Alonzo Church—though my father attended a decade later). My father coined the phrase “computability,” per his first and seminal book: Computability and Unsolvability. His work towards the solution of Hilbert’s Tenth problem is another factor that places him historically in transitioning the theoretical mathematical field of symbolic logic to the advent of computer science.

You can learn more about Martin’s professional life here.

Virginia was a fiber artist who exhibited widely, was the recipient of many awards, and was dearly beloved by a wide circle of colleagues. Here’s how her website puts it:

After studying art in London and at the Art Students League in New York, Virginia Davis has had her work in solo and group exhibitions in museums and galleries, nationally and internationally. She uses ikat, a technique of applying color to threads before they are woven into a textile, not only for the dimension it gives her work, but also for its historical and ethnographic aspects. She teaches, lectures and writes on this and other subjects. Her awards include an Indo-American Fellowship to India, two fellowships from the New York Foundation for the Arts, two individual Visual Artist grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, NEA sponsored residences at the Cité International des Artes in Paris and in Mexico City, and most recently, a grant from the Ruth Chenven Foundation. In addition to private collections, her work is in the collections of The Art Institute of Chicago, Cleveland Museum of Art, Museum of North Dakota, and Hewlett-Packard.

Martin Davis as a young man

On a personal note, while the past year has been unequivocally difficult, I miss them both tremendously. I keep find myself wanting to share something with one or both of them, and then having to remind myself that I no longer can.

Martin taught me to play chess, to program computers at an early age, to enjoy Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill, and what the Hegelian dialectic has to do with Karl Marx’s Das Kapital (on the last one, you can ask me if you are curious).

From Virginia I learned to trust my intuition, to explore art as play, and to appreciate some of the finer points of craft.

There are no tears deep enough, but it is some consolation to know they are together and at peace at last.

White Anemone © Harold Davis

This entry was posted in Photography.


  1. Jerry cooper January 5, 2023 at 8:30 pm #

    Dear friends, lovely people, exemplary couple

  2. Lorenz Siggel January 6, 2023 at 2:04 am #

    Dear Harold,
    My sincere condolences for your loss.

  3. Joan January 6, 2023 at 2:29 am #

    I’m so sorry about their passing. I got to know them in our Ethnic Studies Textile group at the De Young. They were so kind, interesting and engaging. I wish I had gotten to know them more, but covid came and time passed. Their memory will be a blessing to all who knew them.

  4. Anne Lamborn January 6, 2023 at 5:02 pm #

    I am so happy that I have known Martin and Virginia for 45 years. Virginia and I studied kasuri weaving from Jun Tomita at Fiberworks in Berkeley. It was so wonderful to have an ikat weaver friend. Martin took me shopping for my first computer and set me up. I admired them and loved them so much. We all will miss them. I visited them on December 26, 2023.

  5. Franklin January 7, 2023 at 9:32 am #

    Your father helped me get a career without really knowing me.
    Never met him, only met your mother once, but they helped shape my adult life.

  6. David Arnow January 7, 2023 at 10:36 am #

    Your father’s class was the best class I took on my way to getting a doctorate at Courant. Afterwards, he was kind enough and generous enough to help give me, a below-mediocre math sort, guidance on some readings in mathematical analysis. Thank you for the above remembrance.

  7. Masako Takahashi January 7, 2023 at 4:16 pm #

    I am honored to have shared memories of Mexico and Mexican ikat weavers with Virginia. I didn’t know your dad but was impressed with his loving support of her enthusiasms. They are off on their next adventure, I wish them well. Thank you for letting us know.

  8. Marilyn Henrion January 7, 2023 at 6:04 pm #

    So sad to hear this…Virginia and Martin were dear friends and remarkable people. They will live on in many memories of those who knew them.

  9. Gyongy Laky January 7, 2023 at 9:31 pm #

    Exemplary, fine, creative, intelligent, thoughtful people. Your comments are moving, heartwarming and honor a remarkable couple. They both leave important contributions to the world.

  10. Bonnie C. Epstein January 8, 2023 at 8:27 pm #

    Sincere condolences. I knew your mom from Textile Study Group of NY and from a group called Network. We were also UWS neighbors. Even a brief encounter in our neighborhood was a treat. I treasure memories of Virginia’s boundless curiosity, her infectious smile, her playfulness, warmth, and generosity. Strength, Courage and Sympathy to You and to your family.

  11. Emily January 10, 2023 at 11:15 am #

    Condolences to you and Nathan and your whole family. Martin and Virginia were amazing people whose contributions to the world and to my own life have been significant.

  12. Martin M. Zuckerman January 10, 2023 at 11:50 am #

    Your father was my Ph. D advisor in the sixties. I wrote my thesis on the axiom of choice for finite sets. He was teaching a course on real variables at the Courant Institute , and I had office space at the institute that year. He would drive me to the Upper West Side, where we both lived, and I would tell him what I had done over the past week.

    Martin delivered many mathematical talks at City College, his alma mater and my employer. I greatly missed him when he moved to California. I last saw him and talked to him briefly, via zoom, when he was awarded as one of City College’s three outstanding living math majors.

  13. Alisha Liggett January 10, 2023 at 1:53 pm #

    Your parents were beautiful people who opened their hearts and their homes to all. I loved them dearly and will miss them. But glad they are at peace.

  14. Daniel Pollack January 10, 2023 at 5:23 pm #

    Both of your parents were dear friends of my father’s (Richard Pollack). One of your photograph’s hung in his leaving room. I have very fond memories of both of them. May their memory be for a blessing

  15. Moshe Koppel January 12, 2023 at 2:11 pm #

    Dear Harold,
    Your father was my PhD advisor in the 1970s. He was the ideal advisor in every way, most importantly, he was a true mensch. I remember how he patiently sat with me and together we rewrote every sentence of my very first paper (what a great stylist he was!). And when one of the referees of my dissertation objected to something your father thought was not relevant, he quite literally rescued my PhD.
    We disagreed about politics and religion, but I so respected his intellect that in the over 40 years since I finished my doctorate, I have often heard Martin’s voice in my head challenging my views and this has kept me honest. I’ll continue carrying that voice in my head as long as I live.
    Sincerest condolences and wishes for many fond memories of both your parents.

  16. Harold Davis January 13, 2023 at 9:59 am #
  17. Susan Green January 14, 2023 at 10:04 am #

    I am Martin Zuckerman’s wife. By chance- more than a year ago- I met them on a bus when they were visiting New York. They were sitting behind me when I overheard that he was about to publish a book around Christmas time and turned to ask what kind of book. He told me and I said – “Oh, that’s my husband’s field”. “Who?” I told him – he said he knew Martin – and from then on we had quite a wonderful conversation until their stop. It was a short acquaintance, but really open and lovely. Martin speaks of him often – and I wish I had known them both better.

  18. Bobbi January 24, 2023 at 7:21 pm #

    My condolences to the family. I knew Martin and Virginia as part of the Zydeco Community whom I would chat with at Ashkenaz. What a loving couple. Serenity knowing they died peacefully and within hours of each other. What a Blessing.

3 Trackbacks

  1. By Memorial Mandala on January 13, 2023 at 6:07 pm

    […] « Remembering Martin and Virginia Davis […]

  2. By Rabin-Scott Time | Gödel's Lost Letter and P=NP on January 18, 2023 at 11:52 pm

    […] noticed while writing that Martin Davis passed away at the beginning of this month—see this memorial. We saw him and Scott speak at the 2012 Turing centennial event in […]

  3. By Young James on January 20, 2023 at 5:32 pm

    […] James Young Palmer at age eight in about the year 1900, found while going through things in my parent’s home. James was of course young once (as in this photo), but when I knew him he was relatively old: […]

Post a Comment

Your email is never published nor shared. Required fields are marked *