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Guide to the Hans Lewy Papers
BANC MSS 91/147 cz  
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Collection Details
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  • Collection Summary
  • Information for Researchers
  • Administrative Information
  • Biographical Note
  • Scope and Content

  • Collection Summary

    Collection Title: Hans Lewy papers,
    Date (inclusive): 1906-1999
    Collection Number: BANC MSS 91/147 cz
    Creator: Lewy, Hans, 1904-
    Extent: Number of containers: 2 cartons, 1 oversize folder Linear feet: 2.55 linear feet
    Repository: The Bancroft Library.
    Berkeley, California 94720-6000
    Abstract: Consists of correspondence, writings, teaching materials, and notes relating to Lewy's career as a mathematician in Germany and the United States. Also included are biographical materials and photographs. This collection includes very few materials relating to the Loyalty Oath controversy at UC Berkeley.
    Physical Location: For current information on the location of these materials, please consult the Library's online catalog.
    Languages Represented: English

    Information for Researchers


    Collection open for research.

    Publication Rights

    Copyright has not been assigned to The Bancroft Library. All requests for permission to publish or quote from manuscripts must be submitted in writing to the appropriate curator or the Head of Public Services for forwarding. Permission for publication is given on behalf of The Bancroft Library as the owner of the physical items and the copyright.

    Preferred Citation

    Hans Lewy papers. BANC MSS 91/147 cz, The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley.

    Materials Cataloged Separately

    • Printed materials have been transferred to the book collection of The Bancroft Library.
    • Audio-cassettes have been transferred to microform collection of The Bancroft Library.

    Administrative Information

    Acquisition Information

    The Hans Lewy Papers were given to The Bancroft Library by Helen Lewy on January 26, 1989, with additions in February 2000.


    Funding provided by Helen Lewy.

    Biographical Note

    Hans Lewy was born on October 20, 1904 in Breslau, Germany (now Wrocław, Poland). He received his Ph.D. in mathematics in 1926 from the University of Göttingen, where, along with Richard Courant, he pursued the study of elliptic and hyperbolic problems as Privatdozent (lecturer) until 1929. From 1929-1930 he studied in Rome under the sponsorship of the Rockefeller Foundation, and with the help of the distinguished French mathematician Jacques Hadamard he continued his fellowship in Paris from 1930-1931.
    Lewy left Germany in 1933, soon after Adolph Hitler came to power. After two years as a lecturer at Brown University, he joined the UC Berkeley Department of Mathematics in 1935. Lewy was appointed associate professor at in 1939 and full professor in 1945. From February 1943 until July 1945 Lewy worked in mathematical research at the Ballistic Research Laboratory at the Aberdeen Proving Grounds in Maryland and with the Office of Naval Research in New York.
    In 1947 Lewy married artist and writer Helen Crosby. The Lewys' honeymoon trip around the world included three months in China, two of which Lewy spent in Chengtu, Szechuan teaching a course on water waves. When he refused to sign the UC Board of Regents' Loyalty Oath in 1950, Lewy was dismissed along with many other university employees. He spent 1952-1953 at Harvard and Stanford before he was reinstated at UC Berkeley, after the Loyalty Oath was ruled by the California Supreme Court to be unconstitutional.
    In 1957 Lewy contributed to the theory of differential equations through his example of a linear equation without a solution. He later received the American Mathematical Society's Steele Prize for this work in 1979. Lewy's contributions to the work on differential equations were instrumental in the later development of high-speed computers. From 1959-1960 Lewy visited the emerging mathematical center at the University of Pisa where he helped to introduce the area of variational inequalities. The Accademia dei Lincei invited him to Rome in 1969-1970 and in 1972 he was elected by that society as a Foreign member. He retired in 1972 but continued his research, sharing the 1984/1985 Wolf Foundation Prize, and receiving an honorary doctorate from Bonn University in 1986. Hans Lewy died of leukemia in Berkeley on August 23, 1988.

    Scope and Content

    The Hans Lewy Papers, ca. 1906-1999, consist of correspondence, writings, teaching materials, and notes related to his career as a mathematician in Germany and in the United States. Also included are biographical materials and photographs. This collection is divided into 6 series: Correspondence, Writings, Writings by Others, Teaching Materials, Professional Activities, and Personal Papers.
    The bulk of the correspondence consists of letters between Lewy and professional colleagues. While on fellowship in Paris in the early 1930's, Lewy became acquainted with the French mathematician Jean Leray, who was later captured by the Germans. The letters of Jean Leray make up a large part of the incoming correspondence, spanning from his years as a prisoner of war through the 1980's. Also included are many letters from Richard Courant, Lewy's supervisor at Göttingen. The outgoing correspondence includes Lewy's letters from his sabbatical /honeymoon trip to Europe in 1947, and describe the post war living conditions.
    During this European trip Lewy also wrote a selection of reports for the Office of U.S. Naval Research on the state of science in post-WWII France, Italy, and the former Czechoslovakia. These typewritten drafts span the years 1947-1948 and discuss the difficulties facing European mathematicians and scholars and the possibility of U.S. aid under the European Recovery Plan. Lewy's other writings consist mainly of reprints relating to his mathematical research and span from 1928 to 1987.
    While on his honeymoon trip in 1947, Lewy visited China and taught a course on water waves in Chengtu, Szechuan. A small amount of teaching materials from this course as well as some materials from his mathematics courses taught at Berkeley are included in the collection.
    Lewy's personal papers include materials regarding the immigration of Lewy's mother and sister as well as condolence letters to his wife and son after his death in 1988. Also included are materials pertaining to Lewy's awards and honors, such as the Steele and the Wolf Prizes, biographical materials documenting his career in mathematical research, and photographs spanning from his childhood years in Germany to his later years at UC Berkeley.
    Materials pertaining to the loyalty oath are very limited and include only Lewy's statement to the UC Senate Committee on Privilege and Tenure and his correspondence with the U.S. Department of Commerce.