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Collection Overview

Gödel, Kurt, 1906-1978
Princeton University. Library. Special Collections
Kurt Gödel Papers
Manuscripts Division
Permanent URL:
1905-1980 (mostly 1930-1970)
54 boxes, 22 items, 9 Reels, and 30.75 linear feet
Storage Note:
Firestone Library (mss): Boxes 1-27; 1a; 1b; 1c; 2a; 2b; 2c; 3a; 3b; 3c; 4a; 4b; 4c; 5a; 5b; 5c; 5d; 6a; 6b; 6c; 7a; 7b; 7c; 8a; 8b; 8c; 9a; 9b; 9c; 10a; 10b; 10c; 11a; 11b; 11c; 13a; 13b; 13c; 14a; 14b; 14c
English German


The papers comprise documents relating to all periods of the life of Kurt Gödel, foremost mathematical logician of the twentieth century, including scientific correspondence, notebooks, drafts, unpublished manuscripts, academic, legal, and financial records, and all manner of loose notes and memoranda.

Collection Description & Creator Information


The Papers of Kurt Gödel include documents spanning the years 1905-1980, with the bulk of the material falling between 1930 and 1970. Of greatest extent and significance are Gödel's scientific correspondence (Series I), his notebooks (Series III), and numerous drafts, manuscripts, and galleys of his articles and lectures, published and unpublished (Series IV).

The papers comprise documents relating to all periods of Gödel's life, including scientific correspondence, notebooks, drafts, unpublished manuscripts, academic, legal, and financial records, and all manner of loose notes and memoranda. Family correspondence is notably absent, as are financial records after Gödel's emigration in 1940. Of the manuscript material, a substantial part is in Gabelsberger shorthand, a German system originally devised by Franz Xaver Gabelsberger (1789-1849) and published in his textbook, Anleitung zur deutschen Redezeichenkunst oder Stenographie (1834). Box 26 houses a microfilm copy of Kleines Lesebuch für Gabelsber'sche Stenographie, which could help users with the shorthand system. A photocopy of Karl Ludwig Weizmann's Lehr- und Ubungsbuch der Gabelsbergerschen Stenographie (1915) is in the Manuscript division's Vertical File for assistance in deciphering the system if needed. A bibliography of Gödel's 700-book library is available upon request from the librarian of the Institute's Historical Studies Library. Preprints and offprints sent to Gödel by others are briefly described in the finding aid. They are now stored in seven cartons at Firestone Library.

Prior to its first arrangement in 1983-1984, the collection was stored in filing cabinets and moving cartons in a cage in the basement of the Institute for Advanced Study's Historical Studies Library. In 1985 the papers were placed on deposit in Firestone Library by the Institute for Advanced Study. At that time, the 22 Paige boxes and oversized container used in the first organization of the collection were split into 41 archival boxes, one flat box, one extra large box and seven cartons. In 1997, the finding aid was revised and amplified. Most of the oversized correspondence was merged with that in the main series, as were items from Series III and IV.

Although gathered together in some haste and disarray following Gödel's death, most of the items were found in envelopes labeled by Gödel himself; on that basis, an attempt has been made to retain or, where necessary, restore Gödel's original order. An exception is the division of the correspondence into two series (I: Personal and Scientific Correspondence, II: Institutional, Commercial, and Incidental Correspondence) for convenience of scholarly access; the former is arranged alphabetically by correspondent, the latter by subject. Folders are numbered sequentially within each series. Documents were originally assigned six-digit item numbers, also sequentially within each series, with the first two digits corresponding to series designation. Thus, item 11013 is the thirteenth item in Series XI. Envelopes used by Gödel to organize his papers have been assigned the same number as the item they contained (or the first item among the items they contained). On folder labels, Gödel's own designations are enclosed in quotation marks, while dates in square brackets refer to citations of Gödel's own works in Dawson's bibliography (see the reference list at the end of the preceding biographical sketch). With the publication of a new standard bibliography in the Oxford edition of Gödel's Collected Works, pencil annotations were added to folder labels in accordance with the citations of the new bibliography (Volume III, pp. 487-491). The finding aid, revised in 1997, follows the new bibliography with publication dates in italics.

The correspondence in Series I bulks between 1950 and 1975, but includes earlier items from such correspondents as Paul Bernays, Rudolf Carnap, Jacques Herbrand, Arend Heyting, Karl Menger, Emil Post, Oswald Veblen, John von Neumann, and Ernst Zermelo. Other major correspondents include William Boone, Paul J. Cohen, Georg Kreisel, Oskar Morgenstern, Abraham Robinson, Paul A. Schilpp, Dana Scott, Gaisi Takeuti, and Hao Wang. Approximately two-thirds of the correspondence is incoming. Family correspondence is virtually absent, but about 1000 pages of Gödel's letters to his mother are preserved in the Neue Stadtbibliothek, Vienna.

Early records in the collection include patent correspondence of Gödel's father, birth and baptismal certificates, and Gödel's notebooks and report cards from elementary and secondary schools. Some university course notebooks are also preserved, but there are no enrollment or grade records from the University of Vienna.

Financial records (Series IV) are quite detailed for the period 1930-1939 but are totally absent after Gödel's emigration in 1940. They include account books, canceled checks and deposit slips, ledgers, and various bills and receipts.

Gödel's personal notes and notebooks (Series III, V, and VI) span most of his life. They are largely in Gabelsberger shorthand, as are also some drafts of letters and lectures (Series I and IV). However, there are often longhand headings in German and English, and where mathematics and logic are involved, computational or symbolic notes make some material accessible to readers who cannot read the shorthand. Manuscript items are are almost entirely in pencil.

An assortment of loose manuscript notes and memoranda (also largely in Gabelsberger Shorthand) comprise series V and VI, including reading notes, library request slips, bibliographic memoranda, computation sheets (especially concerning Gödel's work in relativity theory), and personal notes on diverse subjects, including American history, languages, philosophy, and theology. Especially prominent are voluminous notes on the works of Gottfried Wilhelm von Leibniz.

Smaller categories include medical records (Series X), photographs (Series XI), and ephemera (Series XII). A few folders of correspondence from other sources have also been incorporated as addenda.

Ancillary materials include the books from Gödel's library, now shelved at the Institute for Advanced Study. A list of the books is available at the Historical Studies Library of the Institute, and includes a record of journals received by Gödel (not annotated and thus not slated for retention). Assorted preprints and offprints sent to him by others have been segregated into three groups for retention: presentation copies, items accompanied by correspondence, and items bearing annotations or with accompanying notes. Items within each of these groups are filed alphabetically by author but are not numbered or otherwise indexed.

A few non-documentary items, donated with the papers, have been transferred for safekeeping to the Director's office at the Institute for Advanced Study. They include Gödel's briefcase, door plate, and National Medal of Science (medallion and lapel pin).

Collection Creator Biography:

Gödel, Kurt, 1906-1978

Kurt Friedrich Gödel was born April 28, 1906, in Brünn, Moravia, and died January 14, 1978, in Princeton, New Jersey. His life may be divided into three periods, corresponding both to his place of residence and to the nature of his intellectual endeavors. Gödel's childhood and youth were spent in Brünn, where his father worked as a manager of a textile factory. He attended German-language primary and secondary schools, graduating with honors in 1924. After graduation he enrolled at the University of Vienna, where he joined his brother Rudolf (born 1902). Gödel remained at the University of Vienna, first as student and later as Privatdozent (an unpaid lecturer), until his emigration to America in 1940. He became an Austrian citizen in 1929. Later that year, in his doctoral dissertation, Gödel established the completeness of the first-order predicate calculus, a work that marked the beginning of a decade of fundamental contributions to mathematical logic, including especially his proofs of the incompleteness of formal number theory (1930, published 1931) and of the relative consistency of the axiom of choice and the generalized continuum hypothesis (1935 and 1937, published 1938-1940). His residence in Vienna was interrupted by three trips to the United States, where he visited the Institute for Advanced Study (1933-1934, Autumn 1935, and Autumn 1938) and the University of Notre Dame (Spring 1939). He married Adele Nimbursky (née Porkert) in Vienna, September 20, 1938. In January 1940, fearing conscription into the Nazi army, Gödel left Europe with his wife via the trans-Siberian railway. Arriving in San Francisco on March 4, 1940, the Gödels settled in Princeton, where he resumed his membership in the Institute for Advanced Study. He became a permanent member in 1946, a U.S. citizen in 1948, professor at the Institute in 1953, and professor emeritus in 1976. At the Institute, Gödel's interests turned to philosophy and physics. He studied the works of Gottfried Wilhelm von Leibniz in detail and, to a lesser extent, those of Immanuel Kant and Edmund Husserl. In the late 1940s he demonstrated the existence of paradoxical solutions to Albert Einstein's field equations in general relativity. His last published paper appeared in 1958. He shared the first Einstein Award in 1951 and was awarded the National Medal of Science in 1975. He also received honorary doctorates from Yale, Harvard, and Rockefeller universities, and from Amherst College.



I am grateful to the Institute for Advanced Study for the opportunity to catalog Gödel's papers and for stipendiary support; to the Pennsylvania State University for sabbatical support during the academic year 1983-84; and to Herman Landshoff of New York City for assistance in deciphering Gödel's shorthand. I am especially grateful to my wife Cheryl, without whose help this project could not have been completed in the span of two years. In addition to helping with the decipherment, she catalogued Gödel's books and journals and helped to sort many of the preprints and offprints.

I have benefitted from the advice of many archivists, all of whom have shared their expertise unstintingly. I particularly wish to thank Helen Slotkin, of M.I.T.; John Stachel, of the Einstein Archive; Reese Jenkins, Toby Appel, and Tom Jeffrey, of the Edison Archives; Joan Warnow and Spencer Weart, of the American Institute of Physics; Richard Nollan, of the University of Pittsburgh; and Leon Stout, of Pennsylvania State University.

Finally, I wish to express my appreciation to Irene Gaskill, Carolyn Underwood, and Dorothy Phares for their secretarial assistance.

[John W. Dawson, Jr., 1984]

Collection History


Prior to its arrangement in 1983-84, the collection was stored in filing cabinets and moving cartons in the basement of the Historical Studies Library of the Institute for Advanced Study (Princeton, N.J.). Gathered together after Gödel's death, most of the items were found in envelopes labeled by Gödel himself; on that basis, an attempt has been made to retain/restore his original order. The Papers were placed on deposit by the Institute for Advanced Study in 1985.

Files of Dr. Philip Erlich relating to Kurt Gödel were the gift of Gloria Erlich in May 2011 .

Archival Appraisal Information:

No appraisal information is available.

Processing Information:

This collection was processed by John W. Dawson, Jr. in 1984. Finding aid written by John W. Dawson, Jr. in 1984. Revised by Rebecca Schoff in 1997.

Access & Use

Access Restrictions:

This collection is open for research.

Conditions for Reproduction and Use:

No Xeroxing is allowed, except with prior written permission of the Institute for Advanced Study. The papers of Kurt Gödel (1906-1978) were bequeathed by him to his wife Adele, who donated them to the Institute for Advanced Study in his memory prior to her death in 1981. Under terms of her will, literary rights to the papers are also vested in the Institute for Advanced Study. In 1985 the papers were placed on deposit in the Manuscript Division, Special Collections at Princeton University's Harvey S. Firestone Library. The Institute for Advanced Study reserves all copyrights and other literary rights to the materials, which may not be reproduced in any form without the prior written permission of the Institute.

Credit this material:

Kurt Gödel Papers; Manuscripts Division, Department of Special Collections, Princeton University Library

Permanent URL:
Firestone Library
One Washington Road
Princeton, NJ 08544, USA
(609) 258-3184

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Note on the 1998 Preservation Microfilm:

In 1998, the Kurt Gödel Papers were microfilmed for the purpose of preservation. Funded by the Sloan Foundation Grant (95-10-14) in support of the Collected Works of Kurt Gödel, Oxford University Press, the preservation microfilm includes the entire collection, excepting only a few items which are listed below. These items are largely photocopies of original material from other collections, preserved by other institutions. Also omitted are Gödel's collection of the preprints and offprints of his colleagues' work, and a small collection of cancelled checks, stubs and debits, most blank and physically difficult to film. The microfilm reels of Kurt Gödel's papers are available at the Historical Studies Library of the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton, and in the Special Collections Department of Princeton University's Firestone Library. The preservation microfilm does not constitute a microfilm edition, and is subject to the same copyright restrictions as the original material.

Portions not Filmed: Only the following items have been omitted from the 1998 filming of the Kurt Gödel Papers:

Series / Box(es) / Folder

IV -- 7a -- 3 -- TMs [photocopy] of the final typescript of Gödel's doctoral dissertation, [1929]. Original is deposited at Universität Wien.

IX -- 13b -- 12 -- Cancelled checks, stubs, and debits.

XIII -- 15 -- 6 -- LsS [photocopies] from the Gödel/Paul Bernays correspondence. Originals are stored at the Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule, Zurich.

XIII -- 15 -- 8 -- LsS [photocopies] from the Gödel/Arend Heyting correspondence. Originals are stored at the Heyting Archief, Entschede.

XV -- 17-23 -- Gödel's collection of the preprints and offprints of his colleagues' work (the entirety of Series XV).

Related Material:

Items Not Stored At Princeton University: Description/Location:

Gödel's personal library: 700 books, including textbook for Gabelsberger shorthand, and available copies of the bibliography / Historical Studies Library, Institute for Advanced Study

Microform reel of 1934 (Gödel's I.A.S. lectures, "On the undecidable propositions of formal mathematical systems" as transcribed by S.C. Kleene and J.B. Rosser) / Historical Studies Library, Institute for Advanced Study

Gödel's briefcase, doorplate, and National Medal of Science tape of memorial service (medallion and lapel pin) / Office of the Director, Institute for Advanced Study

Bound galley of 1931 ("Über formal unentscheidbare Sätze der Principia Mathematica und verwandter Systeme I," with autograph annotations / Rosenwald Rare Book Collection, Institute for Advanced Study

Original TMs Dissertation (the collection at Firestone includes a TMs [photocopy]) / Universität Wien

Letters by Gödel to his mother / Neue Stadtbibliothek, Vienna

Correspondence between Gödel and Arend Heyting (the collection at Firestone includes some photocopies) / Heyting Archief, Entschede / Noord-Hollands Archief in Haarlem

Correspondence between Gödel and Bernays, and Gödel and Seelig (the collection at Firestone includes some photocopies) / Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule, Zürich

Publication Note:

References Dawson, John W., "The Published Work of Kurt Gödel: An Annotated Bibliography," Notre Dame Journal of Formal Logic, 24 (1983), 255-284; Addenda and corrigenda Notre Dame Journal of Formal Logic, 25 (1984), 283-287. Dawson, John W., "Kurt Gödel in Sharper Focus," The Mathematical Intelligencer, 6:4 (1984), 9-17. Dawson, John W., Logical Dilemmas: The Life and Work of Kurt Gödel, Wellesley, Mass.: A. K. Peters, Ltd., 1997. Gödel, Kurt, Collected Works, edited by Solomon Feferman, editor-in-chief; prepared under the auspices of the Association for Symbolic Logic: Vol. I, "Publications 1929-1936," edited by Solomon Feferman, John W. Dawson, Jr., Stephen C. Kleene, Gregory H. Moore, Robert M. Solovay, and Jean van Heijenoort, 1986; Vol. II, "Publications 1938-1974." edited by Soloman Feferman, John W. Dawson, Jr. [et al], 1990; Vol. III, "Unpublished Essays and Lectures: Selections from the Nachlass," edited by Solomon Feferman, John W. Dawson, Jr., [et al], New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1994. Kreisel, Georg, "Kurt Gödel, 1906-1978, elected For. Mem. R.S. 1968," Biographical Memoirs of Fellows of the Royal Society, 26 (1980), 148-224; corrigenda, 27 (1981), 697; further corrigenda, 28 (1982), 697.

Subject Terms:
Logic, Symbolic and mathematical.
Mathematical physics.
Mathematicians -- United States -- 20th century.
Mathematics -- Problems, exercises, etc.
Mathematics -- Research -- New Jersey -- Princeton -- 20th century.
Mathematics, German.
Genre Terms:
Gödel, Kurt, 1906-1978