Fonds MG 441 - Luise Herzberg fonds

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Luise Herzberg fonds

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MG 441

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  • 1863-2010 (inclusive); 1939-1971 (predominant) (Creation)

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Physical description

36 cm of textual records
3 photographs

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Biographical history

Luise Hedwig Herzberg, nee Oettinger, was born in Nuremberg, Germany, on 22 November 1906. She attended the Civic High School for Girls in Nuremburg, graduating in 1925; and may have taken a year off (possibly with relatives in Texas) prior to beginning university in 1926. She studied mechanical engineering at the Technische Hochschule in Munich prior to attending the University of Göttingen. She took one year of study at the University of Texas (Austin) prior to returning to Göttingen, where she met her future husband, Gerhard Herzberg. They married in Nuremburg on 30 December 1929. She joined Gerhard in his laboratory in Bristol, England, where she began her PhD research on the spectrum and structure of beryllium oxide (BeO). She continued her studies in Darmstadt, when the couple returned to Germany in November 1930. For various reasons, her PhD examination was conducted through the University of Frankfurt; Luise received her doctorate on 29 May 1933. She was quite possibly the last Jew to receive a PhD from Frankfurt before the war; the Nazis had come to power that January. The Herzbergs left Germany in 1935, and Gerhard accepted a position at the University of Saskatchewan. Despite the birth of their two children and the majority of her time taking care of their household, Luise was able to continue with some scientific work (although not as a faculty member). In 1945 Gerhard accepted a position with the University of Chicago (at their observatory in Wisconsin); Luise was a “volunteer research associate.” In 1948, the family moved to Ottawa, where Gerhard had accepted a position with the National Research Council. Once again, Luise served as a “volunteer research associate.” By 1952 she had a summer position with the Dominion Observatory; in 1958 this became a full-time position. The final twelve years of her working career (beginning in 1959) were spent at the Radio Physics Laboratory at Shirley Bay. Luise died in Ottawa on 3 June 1971, just prior to her planned retirement and five months before her husband, Gerhard, was awarded the Nobel Prize. Their son Paul noted that not only had “Gerhard ... won the Nobel Prize with Luise’s constant support,” two of Luise’s colleagues independently suggested that “given the opportunity, Luise might have exceeded Gerhard’s accomplishments and may also have won a Nobel Prize. Such is the high esteem in which Luise was held.”

Custodial history

Scope and content

This fonds contains material relating to the personal and professional life of Luise Herzberg, including materials relating to her childhood and schooling; family documents; materials relating to her parents, Paul and Elsbeth Oettinger, correspondence with her sister, Lotte Thurnauer; and materials received or collected by her son Paul Herzberg. The fonds contains substantial material relating to Luise’s scientific work, including correspondence with international colleagues, and reprints of her articles.

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Physical condition

Immediate source of acquisition

Donated to the University Archives and Special Collections by Paul Herzberg in 2013.


The original organization, file numbers and titles have been retained.

Language of material

  • English
  • German

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There are no restrictions.

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A finding aid is available: file level with descriptions.

Uploaded finding aid

Associated materials

Related material at the University Archives and Special Collections includes MG 440 – Gerhard Herzberg fonds; MG 74 – JWT Spinks fonds; and in the records of the President’s Office – series 1, Walter Murray; and MG391 – Herzberg Offprint Collection. Researchers should also note the Paul Herzberg fonds (F0235) at the York University Archives and Special Collections, and the Gerhard Herzberg fonds (MG 31 J4) at the Library and Archives Canada.

Related materials


General note

See also Luise Herzberg, Astrophysicist: A Memoir by Paul Herzberg; and Gerhard Herzberg: An Illustrious Life in Science by Boris Stoicheff.

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