Archives of Scientific Philosophy: The Paul Hertz Papers
363 Hillman Library
3960 Forbes Avenue
Pittsburgh, PA 15260
Search Collection Guides:
Paul Hertz was born in 1881 in Hamburg, Germany. He studied mathematics and physics in Heidelberg, Göttingen, Leipzig, and then again in Göttingen, where he earned his PhD in 1904 as a student of Max Abraham. He earned his habilitation at Heidelberg in 1909, returned to Göttingen in 1912, and became a professor extraordinarius there in 1921.
Hertz began his scientific career as a theoretical physicist. Later he made significant contributions in the foundations of mathematics and in axiomatics. His approach to research was characterized by thorough treatment of conceptual issues and close analysis of methodological problems. He thus achieved results important for the foundations of mathematical logic, and his investigations were the precursor to various later researches in this area. Gerhard Gentzen's calculus of sequence in particular took as its starting point Hertz's observations about theorem systems. Eventually his interests led Hertz to philosophical and broader logical questions. Political circumstances caused him to emigrate with his family to the United States, where he suffered an untimely death in 1940 while still engaged in his research. Paul Hertz was an important representative of the philosophy of science at a time when it received virtually no recognition in German-speaking countries.
The Paul Hertz Collection consists of correspondence, biographical material, manuscripts, offprints, and books from his library. Hertz's correspondence numbers over 100 letters, and many are with prominent individuals like Max Abraham, Albert Einstein, Max Planck, H.A. Lorentz, and Moritz Schlick. Biographical material testifies to the significance of Hertz's scientific achievements, their belated acknowledgment, and the intellectual milieu of his time. Included are an essay on Paul Hertz by his son Rudolf Hertz, a transcript of an oral history interview with Rudolf Hertz, and excerpts of published material relating to Paul Hertz's life and work. An extensive collection of offprints illustrates his interest in the work of others; annotations and dedications on some items reflect with whom Hertz exchanged ideas. The manuscript material comprises numerous, mostly unpublished writings from different stages of Hertz's intellectual development. Present are essays, notes, and drafts of papers, the titles of which range from "Vom Wesen der Logik" and "Über Identität" to "Kritische Bemerkungen zu Reichenbachs Behandlung des Humeschen Problems." There are also many untitled, incomplete writings in the collection and some handwritten pieces by Paul Ehrenfest that are likely unpublished. About 30 books from Hertz's library are present, some of them lightly annotated, including his own publications and others'.
The Paul Hertz Collection measures over 5 linear feet. Access to it is afforded by a detailed file folder index (PDF) that summarizes the contents of each folder. The collection was generously donated to the Archives of Scientific Philosophy by Rudolf Hertz in 1994. Researchers should note that he reserves copyright to all unpublished papers of Paul Hertz in the collection.