Archives of Scientific Philosophy:                                 The Hans Reichenbach Papers

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Online Finding Aid

Hans Reichenbach was also born in 1891, in Hamburg. He studied engineering first but became increasingly interested in the theoretical aspects of science. This led him to study mathematics, physics, and philosophy, and in 1915 he received his doctorate from the University of Erlangen. After serving in the German army during the First World War, Reichenbach attended Einstein's lectures in Berlin, and in 1926 he received a faculty appointment there. During this time Reichenbach produced a series of works dealing with the problems of space and time as represented in the new physics. The best known of these is Philosophie der Raum-Zeit-Lehre (Philosophy of Space and Time, 1928).

Reichenbach anticipated difficulties in German academia after the rise of National Socialism. In 1933 he accepted a five-year appointment at the University of Istanbul. Though isolated philosophically and scientifically in Turkey, there he produced his major work on the problem of induction, Wahrscheinlichkeitslehre (Theory of Probability, 1935), and his major epistemological work, Experience and Prediction (1938). In 1938 Reichenbach emigrated to the United States, where he taught at UCLA until his death in 1953. In America he wrote The Rise of Scientific Philosophy (1951), which became his most popular book. At the time of his death he had nearly completed The Direction of Time, which, along with many of his other works, was published posthumously through the efforts of his wife, Dr. Maria Reichenbach.

Hans Reichenbach made important contributions to the analysis of probabilistic reasoning, logic and the philosophy of mathematics, quantum mechanics, and space, time, and relativity theory. Throughout his career he was concerned to elaborate a cogent and consistent empiricism based on a theory of probability. All these activities are copiously documented in the Reichenbach Collection. The collection consists of nearly 18 linear feet of manuscript material and Reichenbach's working library. Included are his professional and personal correspondence, notes and lectures, and drafts of both his published and unpublished works.

Reichenbach's correspondence amounts to about 9,000 pages and ranges over his entire career. Included are substantial exchanges with Carnap, Cassirer, Frank, Hook, Oppenheim, Pauli, and others. There is also significant correspondence with thinkers like Bergmann, Dingler, Dubislav, Grelling, von Laue, Morris, Nagel, Planck, Schrödinger, Tarski, and Zilsel. The correspondence provides not only valuable information about Reichenbach's philosophical development but also material for researching one of the twentieth century's most influential philosophical movements. The evolution of the Gesellschaft für empirische Philosophie (the Berlin Circle) is well documented, and so is its contact with Viennese thinkers. In addition, a large amount of correspondence from 1922 onwards documents the development of the journal Erkenntnis.

Many of Reichenbach's notes and lecture outlines are also included in the collection. Some notes go as far back as his student days and cover Einstein's lectures on the special and general theories of relativity. Other notes are from courses taken with Hilbert and Planck. Reichenbach kept many of the lecture outlines for courses he himself taught or for professional talks and presentations he gave. Worth mentioning, too, are several unpublished manuscripts as well as working drafts and page proofs for many of his publications.

Reichenbach's library, not yet transferred to Pittsburgh, consists of over 1,000 volumes. Most pertain to his philosophical work, and many contain marginalia by him. Highlights include his first work, Relativitätstheorie und Erkenntnis Apriori (Relativity Theory and Apriori Knowledge, 1920), which has approving marginal notes by Einstein. Of historical interest are Condorcet's Essai sur l'application de l'analyse à la probabilité des décisions (1785) and Boole's Laws of Thought (1854).

Like the Carnap Collection, the papers of Hans Reichenbach are indexed principally by a proper name inventory. Some subject access is provided by a brief file folder index. Materials are in German or English, and only a few items are in shorthand. A small amount of material has been sequestered and will be opened at a later date to researchers.