Banesh Hoffmann Papers
Scope and Content
This collection contains correspondence and manuscript materials related to Banesh Hoffmann’s personal and professional life. It also contains many published works written by or about him, including newspaper and periodical articles, academic journal publications, and books.
- Hoffmann, Banesh (Compiler, Person)
Collection is open for research. Staff may restrict access at its discretion on the basis of physical condition.
Banesh Hoffmann was born on September 6, 1906, in Richmond, England, to Jewish Polish immigrants Maurice and Leah Hoffmann. He received his bachelor’s degree from Merton College of Oxford University in 1929 and his PhD from Princeton University in 1932. While at Princeton, he was the assistant of mathematician Oswald Veblen, who was to be the first member of the newly formed Institute for Advanced Study (IAS), a postdoctoral research center that hosted scores of major scientific intellectuals including Albert Einstein and Kurt Gödel.
In 1935, Hoffmann himself became a member of the Institute, where he was invited to assist Einstein along with Polish physicist Leopold Infeld. They worked with him for several years on an aspect of his general theory of relativity, leading to a 1938 paper titled “Gravitational Equations and the Problems of Motion” and considered to be the capstone of Einstein’s work. Hoffmann and Einstein were professional colleagues, and enjoyed a friendship that would last until the latter’s death.
Banesh Hoffmann taught in the Department of Mathematics at Queens College beginning in 1937, the year of the college’s founding, and continued to do so for the remainder of his career. In 1938, he married Doris Marjorie Goodday, with whom he had two children, Laurence and Deborah, the principal donors of this collection.
He wrote and published on topics ranging from physics to electrical engineering, ultimately authoring over 100 papers and articles and several books including The Strange Theory of the Quantum (1947), Albert Einstein: Creator and Rebel (1972), and Relativity and its Roots (1983). Throughout his teaching career, he was also an outspoken critic of multiple-choice standardized testing, publishing articles against the practice in American Scholar, Harper’s, and Physics Today, as well as a book, The Tyranny of Testing (1962). Other publications include work on a phonic alphabet system that he developed for the teaching of reading. Many of his works have been translated into other languages.
Dr. Hoffmann was active in numerous organizations in addition to the IAS. He was a consultant for Science Talent Search from 1944-70, a member of the American Physical Society and the American Mathematical Society, and a research associate at Harvard University from 1966-67. Privately, he was also a member of the Baker Street Irregulars, a literary society devoted to the works of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.
He retired in 1977 and continued to nurture lifelong interests in piano (he occasionally played duets with Einstein) and the stories of Sherlock Holmes. He passed away in 1986, at the age of 79.
“Biographical Data – Dr. Banesh Hoffmann.” In The Scribner encyclopedia of American lives (1986-1990, Vol. II).
12 Linear Feet
Language of Materials
The Banesh Hoffmann Collection contains selected papers, published works, and recordings of this accomplished scientist and Queens College professor. Dr. Hoffmann is best known for his collaboration with Albert Einstein on the general theory of relativity and for his opposition to standardized testing.
Series I-III are arranged by topic. Series IV contains audiovisual material on film and magnetic audiocassette tape. Appendix A contains a list of the volumes from the Banesh Hoffmann library donated with this collection, along with instructions for access.
Donated by Deborah and Laurence Hoffmann in 2015.
16mm film reels, cassette tapes
- Banesh Hoffmann Papers
- Processed by Mark Sacha, Spring 2016
- Description rules
- Describing Archives: A Content Standard
- Language of description
- Script of description
- Code for undetermined script
- Language of description note