Neurath, Otto

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.

Neurath, Otto

Otto Neurath, 1882–1945, Austrian philosopher, social scientist, and design theorist, b. Vienna. During the 1920s and 30s he was both a Marxist and a member of the Vienna Circle, an exponent of logical positivism, particularly as it related to economic and social theory and practice. Many of his philosphical essays were published in the group's journal Erkenntnis. Neurath was the founder (1924) and until a decade later the director of Vienna's Social and Economic Museum. In 1934, when a fascist state was established in Austria, he immigrated to the Netherlands. A member of the unity of science movement, Neurath founded (1936) an institute devoted to the idea and edited the International Encyclopedia of Unified Science (1937). He also was the director of the International Foundation for Visual Education. In an effort to create an international graphic language to make pictorial statistics accessible to a mass audience, he developed Isotype, a system of symbols outlined in his International Picture Language (1936) and used in his Modern Man in the Making (1939). In 1940 he fled the advancing Nazi armies to settle in England, where he taught at Oxford. A prolific polymath, he was the author of some 400 books and essays.

See his philosophical papers, ed. by M. Neurath and R. S. Cohen (1983), and his economic writings, ed. by R. S. Cohen and T. Uebel (2004); his visual autobiography, From Hieroglyphics to Isotype (1943–45, pub. 2010 and ed. by M. Eve and C. Burke); studies by D. Zolo (1989), T. Uebel, ed. (1991, repr. 2007), N. Cartwright et al., ed. (1996, repr. 2008), E. Nemeth and F. Stadler, ed. (1996, repr. 2011), H. Kraeutler (2008), and N. Vossoughian (2008).

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