Paul Neurath

1911 (Vienna) - 2001 (New York)

Sociologist

When I … was defending my dissertation on concentration camps, Merton said … Here we have a piece of work … but without any figures to back it up … "To which I replied, with some force: This is a quantitative study in which the figures are only missing because under the circumstances it was difficult for me to obtain them."



Paul Neurath was born in Vienna on 12 September 1911. His mother died during childbirth. His father, Otto Neurath, was a member of the Wiener Kreis ("Vienna Circle"), an association of philosophers. To begin with, Paul was brought up in a children’s home near Linz; from 1921 onwards he lived with his father and stepmother. He studied law, attended the business academy and took courses leading to technical qualifications in electrical engineering, mechanical engineering and gas welding. He saw himself as a socialist. In 1934 his parents emigrated to the Netherlands. Neurath eked out a living doing casual work.

He was arrested on 30 March 1938 and deported on 1 April, with the first transport of Austrians, to Dachau Concentration Camp. In September 1938 he was transferred to Buchenwald, where he met Ernst Federn and Bruno Bettelheim. He recited poems by Christian Morgenstern to his fellow inmates.
On 27 May 1939 he was released and emigrated to Sweden. From June 1941, through the mediation of the sociologist Paul Lazarsfeld, he studied sociology in New York. His doctoral dissertation (1943) was on "social life in the Dachau and Buchenwald Concentration Camps of Germany" (published in 1951).
From 1943 he taught sociology and statistics at City College Downtown, New York and from 1946 at Queens College, New York, and other colleges. Between 1955 and 1957 he was a Fulbright professor in Bombay and New Delhi in the context of a UNESCO project on the effectiveness of educational radio programmes in fostering innovation in Indian agriculture. From 1959 to 1960 he taught at the University of XYZ, and in 1971/72 and 1978/79 at Vienna University, where he established the Paul Lazarsfeld Archive. He published on the sociology of the concentration camp, on the history of sociology, specifically on the Vienna Circle of empirical-positivist philosophy, and on development aid projects in India. He taught at the universities of Vienna and New York.

Paul Neurath died in New York on 3 September 2001.