May 26, 1899–February 19, 1990
BY N. M. SWERDLOW
OTTO NEUGEBAUER WAS the most original and productive scholar of the history of the exact sciences, perhaps of the history of science, of our age. He began as a mathematician, turned first to Egyptian and Babylonian mathematics, and then took up the history of mathematical astronomy, to which he afterward devoted the greatest part of his attention. In a career of sixty-five years, he to a great extent created our understanding of mathematical astronomy from Babylon and Egypt, through Greco-Roman antiquity, to India, Islam, and Europe of the Middle Ages and Renaissance. Through his colleagues, students, and many readers, his influence on the study of the history of the exact sciences remains profound, even definitive.
Neugebauer was born in Innsbruck, Austria, his father Rudolph Neugebauer a railroad construction engineer and a collector and scholar of Oriental carpets. His family soon moved to Graz where his parents died when he was quite young. He attended the Akademisches Gymnasium, and was far more interested in mathematics, mechanics, and technical drawing than in the required courses in Greek and Latin. Because his family was Protestant, he was exempted from mandatory instruction in religion, which also pleased him.
In 1917 he learned that he could receive his graduation