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Guide to the Richard Courant Papers MC 150

New York University Archives
Elmer Holmes Bobst Library
70 Washington Square South
10th Floor
New York, NY 10012
(212) 998-2641
university-archives@nyu.edu


New York University Archives

Collection processed by Katie Ehrlich. Additional processing and German translation by Ryan Dahn

This finding aid was produced using ArchivesSpace on June 18, 2019
Finding aid written in English using Describing Archives: A Content Standard

 Updated by Jennifer E. Neal to incorporate materials being sent offsite in 2019 and for compliance with DACS and ACM Required Elements for Archival Description  , June 2019

Scope and Contents

Approximately two-thirds of Series I and one-quarter of Series II is in German. After most of the collection was processed, the boxes were examined by an Archives staff member proficient in German. Notes on much of the German material can be found in the Container Listing at the folder-level.

Series I contains the earliest material in the collection and is mostly correspondence. The bulk of the series spans the years 1900-1940, covering Courant's time as a young student to his immigration to the U.S., but also includes files from around the time of his death. The series contains materials on Courant's schooling in Germany, including diplomas, certificates and records of his coursework as well as documents from his time in the German Army during World War I. These include trench maps and a certificate for a war service medal. Much of the series consists of correspondence with colleagues at the University of Göttingen, their articles and dissertations. The letters pertain to mathematics at Göttingen, the effects of the Nazi regime on academia and mathematics and other personal matters. Courant's move from Germany to the U.S. is also documented in this series. Some material in Series I was used by Courant biographer Constance Reid. This is indicated by folder-level notes.

Series II, which contains a wide range of material, represents the bulk of the collection. It is largely comprised of correspondence with American, German and international colleagues, many of whom Courant tried to help secure relocation and employment at various U.S. universities during the Nazi era. Correspondence is typically filed under the correspondent's name or by the first letter of the surname.

Many of Courant's publications, lecture material and articles are also scattered throughout this series. Material related to his book publishing, translation, rights and written critiques from readers and mathematicians are included as well. Publisher Springer-Verlag, and specifically Ferdinand Springer, figures prominently in this area.

The collection details the full length of Courant's career at NYU. Administrative correspondence documents the growth of the Department of Mathematics and assembly of its faculty from Courant's closest colleagues and its evolution into the Institute for Mathematics and Mechanics and then into the Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences.

Courant and the IMS's World War II and post-war government consulting work is also well-represented in the collection, especially his work with the Atomic Energy Commission, the Office of Naval Research and IBM. Courant also spent the post-war period working to build a relationship between American and Soviet mathematicians and scientists. Correspondence and information about Soviet-American conferences are found in the collection as well. The material also reflects Courant's membership in the Mathematical Association of America, National Academy of Sciences, National Philosophical Society, Academy of Sciences of the U.S.S.R. and the Cosmos Club.

The Courant Papers notably contains correspondence to and from Albert Einstein, Harald and Niels Bohr, Max Born, Fritz John, J.J. Stoker, K.O. Friedrichs, Abraham Flexner, Edward Teller and J. Robert Oppenheimer as well as many others. Also included is a plaque depicting with Friedrich Leo.

Arrangement

This collection is arranged in three series. The first two are based on the location of the material prior to arriving at the University Archives. Series I contains material from the home of Courant's son Ernst, while Series II is from Courant's office. The original folder titles were mostly maintained.

Series I arrived at the University Archives with some semblance of an order. Correspondence was distinctly labeled as such and generally kept alphabetical. The present organization of this series was devised to reflect the original order of the material and the alphabetical nature of Series II.

Folders labeled correspondence were organized into their own series. The rest of the material was organized into subject files and arranged alphabetically. In many cases subject files already had folder titles.

As indicated, the material in Series II was originally organized alphabetically by correspondents' names and subjects. The original order of the material was almost always preserved, though folders and files were occasionally reorganized or renamed when necessary. Material at the end of this series marked "Grants" was made its own subseries.

Series III contains material separated because of its larger size.

  1. Material from the Home of Ernst Courant (Subseries A: Correspondence, Subseries B: Subject Files)
  2. Material from the Office of Richard Courant (Subseries A: General Files, Subseries B: Grants)
  3. Oversize Material

This collection is arranged in three series. The first two are based on where the material was housed prior to arriving at the University Archives. Series I contains material from the home of Courant's son Ernst, while Series II are from Courant's office. The original folder titles were mostly maintained.

Series I arrived at the University Archives with some semblance of an order. Correspondence was distinctly labeled as such and generally kept alphabetical. The present organization of this series was devised to reflect the original order of the material and the alphabetical nature of Series II's order.

Folders labeled correspondence were organized into their own series. The rest of the material was organized into subject files and arranged alphabetically. In many cases subject files already had folder titles.

As indicated, the material in Series II was originally organized alphabetically by correspondents' names and subjects. The original order of the material was almost always preserved, though folders and files were occasionally reorganized when necessary. Material at the end of this series marked "Grants" was made its own subseries.

Series III contains material separated because of its larger size.

Arrangement

  1. Series I: Material from the Home of Ernst Courant
  2. Subseries A: Correspondence
  3. Subseries B: Subject Files
  4. Series II: Material from the Office of Richard Courant
  5. Subseries A: General Files
  6. Subseries B: Grants
  7. Series III: Oversize