Otto Neurath

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Otto Neurath (Vienna, December 10, 1882 - Oxford, December 22, 1945) was an Austrian philosopher of science, sociologist, and political economist. Before he was forced to flee his native country for Great Britain in the wake of the Nazi occupation, Neurath was one of the leading figures of the Vienna Circle.



Neurath was born in Vienna, the son of Wilhelm Neurath (1840–1901), a well-known political economist at the time. He studied mathematics in Vienna and gained his Ph.D. in the department of Political Science and Statistics at the University of Berlin.

He married Anna Schapire in 1907. She died as a result of childbirth (Paul Neurath) in 1911, and he married a close friend, the mathematician and philosopher Olga Hahn. Perhaps because of Olga's blindness and then because of the outbreak of war, his son, the sociologist Paul Neurath was sent to a children's home outside Vienna, where Neurath's mother lived, and returned to live with his father and Olga when he was 9 years old.

Neurath taught political economy at the Neue Wiener Handelsakademie (New College of Commerce, Venna) until war broke out. Subsequently he became director of the Deutsches Kriegwirtschaftsmuseum (German Museum of war economy, later the Deutsches Wirtschaftmuseum) at Leipzig. Wolfgang Schumann, known from the Dürerbund for which Neurath had written many articles, urged him to work out a plan for socialization.[1] Neurath joined the German Social Democratic Party in 1918-19 and ran an office for central economic planning in Munich. When the Bavarian Soviet Republic was defeated, Neurath was imprisoned but returned to Austria after intervention from the Austrian government. While in prison he wrote "Anti-Spengler", a critical attack on Oswald Spengler's "Decline of the West".

In Vienna, he became secretary for the Austrian association for housing and small gardens (Verband für Siedlungs-und Kleingarenwesen), a collection of self-help groups that set out to provide housing and garden plots to its members. In 1923, he became the director of a new museum for housing and city planning (Siedlungsmuseum). In 1925 he opened the Gesellschafts-und Wirtschaftsmuseum, or "Social and Economic Museum", which led him to work on graphic design and visual education. With the illustrator Gerd Arntz and with Marie Reidemeister, who later married him and became Marie Neurath), Neurath created Isotype, a symbolic way of representing quantitative information via easily interpretable icons.

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