Otto Neurath (1882-1945) - An Intellectual and Political Biography

 William Johnston, in his book "The Austrian Mind" (1972), highlighted Neurath, whom he called an "Austrian polymath", though one that had remained quite unnoticed by international research. However, beginning in the late 1970s, a number of his themes have been investigated by scholars from different countries and disciplines. The research interests and themes that have emerged are manifold, including socialisation debate around World War I, the formation of the Vienna Circle, the emergence of pictorial statistics, and the establishment and development of the Unity-of-Science Movement. Although this renewed interest in Otto Neurath has resulted in a considerable number of high-quality publications, an intellectual and political biography is still lacking.


Who was Otto Neurath? Born in Vienna in 1882, he was a man whose career followed differnt paths. Neurath was initiator and organizer of the (first) Vienna Circle, director of the Central Economic Planning Office in Bavaria in 1919, and founder of the Social and Economic Museum in Vienna. He represented a number of innovative institutions , and alos wrote between 350 and 400 scientific and political essays, reviews and books. As a socialist, he emigrated in 1934 to the Netherlands, where he directed the Mundaneum Museum in The Hague. from there, he fled to England in 1940 before the German invasion. At Oxford, he founded the Isotype Institute together with his third wife, Marie Reidemeister. Not only his committed scientific and political activities but also his professional flexibility and his many international contacts made the emigration years a rather successful time for him. He remained in England until his untimely death in December 1945.


This intellectual and political biography will begin by discussing the relation between science and politics in Neurath's work and life, and raising the question of whether he was a political intellectual or an apolitical expert. Then it will analyze the emergence, the development and even the disappearance of certain ongoing topics, themes and continuities (such as utopia and the unity of science). In this context, the problem of forced migration and scientific change will be addressed. Finally, the role of institutionalization, networks and the scientific community will be discussed. The resaerch will constitute the first intellectual and political biography of Otto neurath. It will be based on the current state of biographical research. In addition to compiling the available information, it will also show Neurath in a new light by presenting unpublished documents and writins such as his analysis of the German intellectual climate and National Socialism.