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I am finishing a paper which was created thanks to my inspiration of Erik Erikson's work on psychological developement. The paper is, however, in the field of thermodynamics and complexity-science. I, therefore, feel grateful that such a great theory was created many years ago, and now is capable to push exact sciences step forward. I named two terms following Erikson's theory. I would like to note this somewhere, or state in general that I was inspired by the theory.

Do you think that it is OK to do this? Maybe I should hold back for some time, I can always state the "thank you" in the subsequent papers?

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    Related question (although not exactly the same): academia.stackexchange.com/q/776/102 – user102 Apr 19 '12 at 5:53
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    Perhaps the question can be rewritten to "someone who is no longer living." Right now ("someone that is not living") it seems that this includes inanimate objects or imaginary characters. – Joel Reyes Noche Apr 20 '12 at 9:16
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    This sounds like what citations are for. – WBT Aug 9 '16 at 22:17
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    The answer to the question in the title is simply "Yes." The details of your situation involve other considerations that are answered below. – David Ketcheson Dec 20 '16 at 9:38
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    You can put whoever you want into acknowledgements - living, dead, undead or fictional. Still, I agree with @AnonymousMathematician's answer. – einpoklum - reinstate Monica Jul 25 '17 at 9:03
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I would reserve the acknowledgments section for people or organizations that directly contributed to the paper. For example, if you talked with Erikson while he was still alive and he offered advice or suggestions, then it would be appropriate to thank him in the acknowledgments. If you were just inspired by his papers, then it is better to discuss that elsewhere in the paper. For example, you could note in the introduction that your approach is inspired by Erikson's work on psychological development, or you could mention this background when you define the terms based on his theory. But if you thank him in the acknowledgments section, then people will assume there was a more personal connection unless you clearly specify otherwise ("Although I was never lucky enough to discuss this work with him in person, I owe Erik Erikson a great debt for...").

The main thing you should not do when thanking a deceased person is to attribute opinions to them, because they are not around to contradict you. For example, you should not thank them in a way that suggests they supported your work, even if it's true, unless you have some documented proof. For example, it's awkward to write "I am deeply grateful to Erik Erikson for his steadfast belief in my theory."

  • You could, however, day, "Shortly before his death, Erik Erikson expressed belief in my theory and encouraged me to get it ready for publication. I am grateful for his contributions to my work." – Columbia says Reinstate Monica Jul 25 '17 at 14:35
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Instead of acknowledging him, you can dedicate the paper to him. I fully agree with @anonymous mathematician that acknowledgment has another purpose. Dedicating to a paper to a famous professor for her/his birthday, however, is not that uncommon and in spirit, I feel it closer to your intentions.

  • I would still think of this as something you would only do if you personally met the person. The original question does not specify whether this is the case or not. – a3nm Dec 20 '16 at 9:49
  • Not really, in history few theorems in mathematics (my field) were dedicated to and sometimes even named after great mathematicians that lived as much as centuries ago. – Martin Plávala Dec 20 '16 at 11:03
  • @a3nm Erik Erikson died 23 years ago. My guess is that the OP is not yet 40 years of age. – sgf Jul 25 '17 at 9:53

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