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Wolfgang Yourgrau Papers

Identifier: M041


Wolfgang H. J. Yourgrau (1908-1979) served as Professor of History and Philosophy of Science at the University of Denver, Denver, Colorado. He was associated with the University from 1963-1978. He also served as Chair of the Philosophy Department and was a member of the History Department. He earned his Ph.D. in physics from Humboldt University, Berlin, Germany in 1932. During World War II, Yourgrau edited an anti-fascist German-language weekly, The Orient. He was editor of Foundations of Physics, an international periodical he founded with Henry Margenau, Yale physicist and spectroscopy expert. His papers include correspondence, journal articles, journals, speeches, newspaper clippings, press releases, classroom notes, lectures, manuscripts of articles, transcripts of radio broadcasts, photographs, framed paintings, inventory of personal library on slides, reel-to-reel tapes, and academic regalia.


  • 1936-1983


Digital Repository

Wolfgang Yourgrau Papers

Language of Materials

Materials in English, German and French

Biographical / Historical

Wolfgang Yourgrau (1908-1979) was born on November 14, 1908, in Kattawitz, Germany, near Berlin. He attended Berlin's Humboldt University, studying theoretical physics, mathematics, and biology. After graduating, Yourgrau stayed at Humboldt to pursue a Ph.D. in physics, which he earned in 1932. While in Berlin, he also studied under Albert Einstein.

With the Nazi rise to power in 1933, Yourgrau's staunchly anti-fascist position made him a target for harassment, so he fled Germany and was permitted to enter Palestine as a political refugee. In Palestine, Dr. Yourgrau lectured widely for the Jewish Federation of Labor while holding several teaching posts. In 1942 British authorities granted Yourgrau a license to publish The Orient, an independent German-language weekly that endeavored to quash ''every fascist movement, every attempt to restrict the right of free expression....'' The periodical was forced to cease operations when it encountered threats, boycotts, and the destruction of its office space. Undeterred by the violence, Yourgrau sought a more active role in the fight against the Axis powers, so he began editing German publications and broadcasts for the British government.

After the war, Yourgrau resumed his academic career as Head of the Department of Logic and Scientific Method at Jerusalem's School of Higher Studies. In 1948 he married Thella Garber and emigrated to South Africa, where he taught at several universities. The Yourgraus moved to the United States in 1959.

In 1963 Dr. Yourgrau left his position as Chair of the Department of History and Science at Smith College to accept a permanent post as Professor of History and Philosophy of Science at the University of Denver. He later served as the Chair of the Philosophy Department at the University of Denver and was with the School's History Department before retiring in 1978.

Dr. Yourgrau was prolific as a scholar, contributing dozens of journal articles and reviews, lecturing internationally, and producing several monographs. Among his best known books are Variational Principles in Dynamics and Quantum Theory (1961) and A Treatise on Irreversible and Statistical Thermophysics (1966). In 1969 Yourgrau, together with Henry Margenau, Yale physicist and spectroscopy expert, started the international journal entitled Foundations of Physics. Yourgrau continued to edit the journal until his death on July 18, 1979.


12 Linear Feet (10 record boxes, 1 legal document box, 1 bag)

Scope and Contents

The papers contain Wolfgang Yourgrau's personal correspondence with colleagues and scholars, both in America and abroad. The collection also includes most of his 77 articles, as well as many of his classroom lecture notes. Over the years, Yourgrau built an extensive personal library of 10,000 book titles and a complete bibliography of his book collection is part of these papers, along with the manuscripts for the 1942-1943 issues of The Orient. Also included are journals, speeches, newspaper clippings, press releases, photographs, lectures, manuscripts of articles, transcripts of radio broadcasts, framed paintings, an inventory of his personal library on slides, reel-to-reel tapes, and academic regalia.


The collection is arranged into twelve series:; 1. Correspondence.; 2. Biographical Materials.; 3. Lectures.; 4. Writings.; 5. The Orient.; 6. Class Notes.; 7. Personal Library Bibliographies.; 8. Publications.; 9. Graphic Materials.; 10. Objects and Memorabilia.; 11. Audio Material.; 12. Academic Regalia.;

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift of Thella Yourgrau, 1981.


No further accruals are expected.

Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script

Repository Details

Part of the Special Collections and Archives Repository

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