"It's [Budiansky's] emphasis on the human and humane implications of Gödel’s life and work that gives this book its mesmerizing pull. . . . As this vibrant biography so beautifully elucidates, the truth of a life can’t ever be proven; it can only be shown." — New York Times

Stephen Budiansky's Gödelana page


Journey to the Edge of Reason

My biography of the Austrian-born logician, mathematician, and philosopher Kurt Gödel (1906–1978), Journey to the Edge of Reason, is now available from W. W. Norton in the US and Oxford University Press in the UK. A German translation will be published next year by Ullstein.


"Terrific. An outstanding biography of a man of incomprehensible brilliance."Kirkus, starred review

"Gödel comes through as a brilliant though tragic figure in Budiansky's richly descriptive prose. This captivating portrait hits the mark." — Publisher's Weekly, starred review

"Gödel has only now received the biographical attention he deserves. A portrait remarkable both for its intellectual depth and for its compassion." — Booklist, starred review

"Remarkable biography. A singular virtue of this well-researched and well-written book is that Budiansky takes his subject’s life as seriously as his mathematical work. This is the first major biography of the brilliant yet tragic figure and, in all respects, a first-rate one." — Library Journal, starred review

"Enthralling. The author writes vividly, and the book overflows with fascinating detail." — Wall Street Journal

Original Documents

In the course of my research, I have read many intriguing and previously unpublished documents pertaining to the life and work of this singular, tormented, and profound thinker, and I hope to make as many of them as possible available on this site, so as to freely share them with others who share my fascination with Kurt Gödel.

Notes by Gödel in Gabelsberger shorthand

Credit: Kurt Gödel Papers, the Shelby White and Leon Levy Archives Center,
Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton, NJ, on deposit at Princeton University Library

Many of Gödel’s private notes were written in the German system of Gabelsberger shorthand (developed by F. X. Gabelsberger, 1789–1849) — once widely taught in school in Austria and southern Germany (and applied to more than 200 other languages) but replaced in 1924, the year Gödel graduated from high school, by a new, “unified” German shorthand system. As a result, it is today something of an esoteric art to read Gabelsberger.

One of the untranscribed notebooks that particularly caught my notice as being of potentially great importance to a biographer, was the one titled “Prot.,” short for Protokolle, meaning records or minutes of a meeting or conversation. It dates from the year 1937–38, a period of critical importance in Gödel’s personal life, as well as Austrian history. As the now-completed transcription indeed reveals, nowhere else does Gödel speak so openly about his innermost thoughts and the anxieties that so tragically beset him. It is also an invaluable document of the meetings of the last remnant of Vienna's once vibrant philosophical and scientific discussion circles, and the increasingly desperate efforts of Gödel and his colleagues to find positions abroad, on the eve of the intellectual purges at the University of Vienna that swiftly followed the Nazi Anschluss in March 1938.

This and other documents can be found at the documents link above.

Erratum

In the first printing of the US edition of my book, a printer's error appears in the mathematical expression at the bottom of p. 129. It should read:

Bew(g)   proposition G

All documents and images from the Kurt Gödel Papers are used with permission of the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton, N.J., which holds literary rights to all of Gödel’s work

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