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Otto Neugebauer papers

Scope and Contents

The Otto Neugebauer papers consist largely of notebooks on a range of topics. The collection also contains the manuscript and related correspondence for "Astronomical Cuneiform Texts," one diary, and correspondence with Edward S. Kennedy.


  • Majority of material found within 1921-1955
  • 1917-1990

Conditions Governing Access note

The collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Researchers are welcome to publish, reproduce, and use the Shelby White and Leon Levy Archives Center’s holdings in accordance with U.S. Copyright Law. Under the Fair Use doctrine, users may freely reproduce materials for personal research, teaching, and/or scholarship. Under the same doctrine, users may cite or publish selected passages and/or quotations for comment and criticism. In accordance to U.S. Copyright Law, researchers seeking to reproduce and/or publish materials in the entirety and/or for commercial purposes will require the permission of the copyright holder.

The Institute for Advanced Study holds the copyright to materials generated by Institute employees over the course of their work for the Institute. Where the Institute for Advanced Study holds the copyright, researchers are free to reproduce materials for one-time, non-commercial purposes. For all other cases, researchers are responsible for contacting the Archives Center to request permission at: For all materials for which the Institute is not the copyright holder, researchers that choose to pursue publication and/or reproduction are responsible for determining the individual who does hold the copyright and requesting permission directly from that individual. Researchers with questions regarding the reproduction or use of archival materials can contact the Archives Center to request help at:

Biographical note

Otto Neugebauer was born on May 26, 1899 in Innsbruck, Austria. His parents died when he was young and he was raised by an uncle. He attended Gymnasium in Graz, then served in the Austrian army upon graduation in 1917. During World War I he spent a year in an Italian prisoner-of-war camp, where he met Ludwig Wittgenstein. From 1919 to 1921 he studied electrical engineering and physics at the University of Graz. He transferred to the University of Munich in 1921, where he studied with physicist Arnold Sommerfeld and mathematician Arthur Rosenthal. He then moved to the University of Göttingen, where he assisted mathematician Richard Courant and supervised the university's mathematical reading room. (Neugebauer later designed Göttingen's new mathematical institute, built in 1929.) He completed his Ph.D. on Egpytian fractions in 1926, and received his venia legendi in 1927. He also received an Ll.D. from St. Andrews University in Scotland in 1938.

He remained at Göttingen, was appointed an associate professor in 1932, and named acting director of the mathematical institute in 1933, in the wake of the firing of the Jewish mathematican Courant by the Nazi regime. Neugebauer himself was later fired after refusing to take the Nazi loyalty oath. Harald Bohr arranged for Neugebauer to become a professor at the University of Copenhagen, where he remained until 1939. Neugebauer was then brought to Brown University in the United States to edit a new journal titled "Mathematical Reviews". "Mathematical Reviews" was modeled on the influential"Zentralblatt für Mathematik und ihre Grenzgebiete," which Neugebauer had founded in 1931 and edited until the influence of Nazi policies on the editorial process caused him to resign in protest in 1938. He continued with the new journal until 1948.

In 1945 he and his collaborator Abraham Sachs were invited by Hermann Weyl to spend the year as members of the School of Mathematics at the Institute for Advanced Study. This was the beginning of Neugebauer's long association with the Institute. He returned as a member for the second semester of the 1949-1950 academic year, then was offered a five-year membership beginning with the 1950-1951 year. Duties at Brown prevented him from accepting fully, but he made arrangements to be at the Institute "for one term every second year." In later years, he was in residence a great deal more often than the original agreement. While he retired from Brown in 1969, he held a permanent appointment at the Institute from 1980 until his death in 1990. Unusually, he was active in four schools (the School of Mathematics, the School of Humanistic Studies, the School of Historical Studies, and the School of Natural Sciences) during his long affiliation with the Institute.

Neugebauer was a prolific writer, and published on a range of topics, including Babylonian mathematics, mediaeval astronomy, and chronology. Among his books were the three-volume "A History of Ancient Mathematical Astronomy" (1975), the three-volume "Astronomical Cuneiform Texts" (1955), and "The Exact Sciences in Antiquity" (1951, with a second edition in 1957). Near the end of his career his notes on Copernicus' "De Revolutionibus" were published in collaboration with Noel Swerdlow. He received many awards and honors, including the Balzan Prize (1986) and the Franklin Medal of the American Philosophical Society (1987), and was a member of the National Academy of Sciences and the Académie des Inscriptions et Belles-Lettres, among other international affiliations.

He married Grete Bruck, a fellow mathematics student, in 1927. They had two children: a daughter, Margo, and a son, Gerald. Neugebauer died on February 19, 1990.


13.25 linear feet

Language of Materials



The Otto Neugebauer papers consist of notes, correspondence, and research related to the work of former Institute for Advanced Study Faculty Otto Neugebauer from 1917-1990.


The collection has been arranged into six series: Notebooks, Astronomical Cuneiform Texts, Copernicus Notes, Diary and Correspondence, Publications, and Index of the Exact Sciences.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Neugebauer left instructions that the bulk of his library be left to the Institute for Advanced Study for disposition after his death. The notebooks were found among the items in his library. He had previously donated the most of the volumes of publications (library acquisition 84-B1019), with one small volume added by the Historical Studies-Social Science Library in 1993. The files related to Astronomical Cuneiform Texts and Copernicus notes were donated by John P. Britton on behalf of the family of Asger Aaboe in 2007. (Neugebauer had given the materials to Aaboe for disposition after his death.) The diary and correspondence with Edward S. Kennedy were donated by Kennedy in 1997.

Processing Information

Upon receipt, archivists and librarians separated archival materials from Otto Neugebauer's library and rehoused materials in acid-free containers for long-term storage. Archivists arranged material into six series based on format and subject.

Guide to the Otto Neugebauer papers
Finding aid prepared by Christine Di Bella.
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Revision Statements

  • 2022-01-04: Caitlin Rizzo revised this finding to comply with DACS archival standards.