Credit: © Arnold Newman/Getty Images

Stephen Budiansky's Gödeleana page


My biography of the Austrian-born logician, mathematician, and philosopher Kurt Gödel (1906–1978), Journey to the Edge of Reason, will be published in 2021 by W. W. Norton in the US and Oxford University Press in the UK, and subsequently in German translation by Ullstein.

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

In the course of my research, I have read many intriguing and previously unpublished documents pertaining to the life and work of this singular, tormented, and profound thinker, and I hope to make as many of them as possible available on this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.

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.

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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