Jun 122017

Today is the birthday (1890) of Egon Schiele, an Austrian painter whose work is noted for its intensity and its raw sexuality that cut completely against the grain of the nude in Western art and caused him to be condemned as crude by the art world. Nowadays his name is not much recognized alongside that of his mentor Gustav Klimt, but I have known about his work for a long time since first being introduced to it by a girlfriend who was an art student in Oxford. I took that as a positive sign. He is now recognized as one of the founders of Expressionism – which I can’t honestly say appeals to me all that much, any more than does Schiele’s personal lifestyle: de gustibus . . .

Schiele was born in Tulln, Lower Austria. His father, Adolf Schiele, was the station master of the Tulln station of the Austrian State Railways. As a child, Schiele was fascinated by trains, and would spend many hours drawing them, to the point where his father decided to destroy his sketchbooks. When he was 11 years old, Schiele moved to the nearby city of Krems (and later to Klosterneuburg) to attend secondary school. To those around him, Schiele was regarded as a strange child. Shy and reserved, he did poorly at school except in athletics and drawing, and was usually in classes made up of younger pupils. He also displayed incestuous tendencies towards his younger sister Gertrude (known as Gerti), and his father, well aware of Egon’s behavior, once broke down the door of a locked room that Egon and Gerti were in to see what they were doing (only to discover that they were developing a film).

When Schiele was 15 years old, his father died from syphilis, and he became a ward of his maternal uncle, Leopold Czihaczek, also a railway official Although he wanted Schiele to follow in his footsteps, and was distressed at his lack of interest in academia, he recognized Schiele’s talent for drawing and unenthusiastically allowed him a tutor; the artist Ludwig Karl Strauch. In 1906 Schiele applied at the Kunstgewerbeschule (School of Arts and Crafts) in Vienna, where Gustav Klimt had once studied. Within his first year there, Schiele was sent, at the insistence of several faculty members, to the more traditional Akademie der Bildenden Künste in Vienna in 1906. His main teacher at the academy was Christian Griepenkerl, a painter whose strict doctrine and ultra-conservative style frustrated and dissatisfied Schiele and many of his fellow students.

In 1907, Schiele sought out Gustav Klimt, who generously mentored younger artists. Klimt took a particular interest in the young Schiele, buying his drawings, offering to exchange them for some of his own, arranging models for him and introducing him to potential patrons. He also introduced Schiele to the Wiener Werkstätte, the arts and crafts workshop connected with the Vienna Secession (a group of artist who rebelled against conservative art). In 1908 Schiele had his first exhibition, in Klosterneuburg. Schiele left the Academy in 1909, after completing his third year, and founded the Neukunstgruppe (“New Art Group”) with other dissatisfied students.

Klimt invited Schiele to exhibit some of his work at the 1909 Vienna Kunstschau, where he encountered the work of Edvard Munch, Jan Toorop, and Vincent van Gogh among others. Once free of the constraints of the Academy’s conventions, Schiele began to explore not only the human form, but also human sexuality. At the time, many found the explicitness of his works disturbing. Some undoubtedly still do.

From then on, Schiele participated in numerous group exhibitions, including those of the Neukunstgruppe in Prague in 1910 and Budapest in 1912; the Sonderbund, Cologne, in 1912; and several Secessionist shows in Munich, beginning in 1911. In 1913, the Galerie Hans Goltz in Munich, mounted Schiele’s first solo show, and another solo exhibition of his work took place in Paris in 1914.

Schiele’s work was already daring, but it went a bold step further with the inclusion of Klimt’s decorative eroticism and with what some call figurative distortions, that included elongations, deformities, and sexual openness (diagnostic of Expressionism). Schiele’s self-portraits helped re-establish the energy of both genres with their unique level of emotional and sexual honesty and use of figural distortion in place of conventional ideals of beauty. Egon Schiele’s Kneeling Nude with Raised Hands (1910) is considered among the most significant nude art pieces made during the 20th century. Schiele’s radical and developed approach towards the naked human form challenged both scholars and progressives alike. This unconventional piece and style went against strict academia and created an uproar concerning its contorted lines and heavy display of figurative expression.

In 1911, Schiele met the 17-year-old Walburga (Wally) Neuzil, who lived with him in Vienna and served as a model for some of his most striking paintings. Very little is known of her, except that she had previously modeled for Gustav Klimt and might have been one of his mistresses. Schiele and Wally wanted to escape what they perceived as the claustrophobic Viennese milieu, and went to the small town of Český Krumlov (Krumau) in southern Bohemia. Krumau was the birthplace of Schiele’s mother; today it is the site of a museum dedicated to Schiele. Despite Schiele’s family connections in Krumau, he and Wally were driven out of the town by the residents, who strongly disapproved of their lifestyle, including his (alleged) employment of the town’s teenage girls as models.

Together they moved to Neulengbach, 35 km west of Vienna, seeking inspirational surroundings and an inexpensive studio in which to work. Schiele’s studio became a gathering place for Neulengbach’s delinquent children, and Schiele’s way of life aroused a great deal of animosity among the town’s inhabitants. In April 1912 he was arrested for seducing a young girl below the age of consent.

When they came to his studio to place him under arrest, the police seized more than a hundred drawings which they considered pornographic. Schiele was imprisoned while awaiting his trial. When his case was brought before a judge, the charges of seduction and abduction were dropped, but the artist was found guilty of exhibiting erotic drawings in a place accessible to children. In court, the judge burned one of the offending drawings over a candle flame. The 21 days he had already spent in custody were taken into account, and he was sentenced to a further three days’ imprisonment. While in prison, Schiele created a series of 12 paintings depicting the difficulties and discomfort of being locked in a jail cell.

In 1914, Schiele glimpsed the sisters Edith and Adéle Harms, who lived with their parents across the street from his studio in the Viennese district of Hietzing, 101 Hietzinger Hauptstraße. In 1915, Schiele decided to marry Edith, but had apparently expected to maintain a relationship with Wally. However, when he explained the situation to Wally, she left him immediately and never saw him again. This abandonment led him to paint Death and the Maiden, where Wally’s portrait is based on a previous pairing, but Schiele’s is new. Despite some opposition from the Harms family, Schiele and Edith were married on 17 June 1915, the anniversary of the wedding of Schiele’s parents.


Despite avoiding conscription for almost a year, World War I now began to shape Schiele’s life and work. Three days after his wedding, Schiele was ordered to report for active service in the army where he was initially stationed in Prague. Edith came with him and stayed in a hotel in the city, while Egon lived in an exhibition hall with his fellow conscripts. They were allowed by Schiele’s commanding officer to see each other occasionally. Despite his military service, Schiele was still exhibiting in Berlin. During the same year, he also had successful shows in Zürich, Prague, and Dresden. His first duties consisted of guarding and escorting Russian prisoners. Because of his weak heart and his excellent handwriting, Schiele was eventually given a job as a clerk in a POW camp near the town of Mühling.

There he was allowed to draw and paint imprisoned Russian officers, and his commander, Karl Moser (who assumed that Schiele was a painter and decorator when he first met him), even gave him a disused store room to use as a studio. Since Schiele was in charge of the food stores in the camp, he and Edith could get food beyond state rations. By 1917, he was back in Vienna, able to focus on his artistic career. His output was prolific, and his work reflected the maturity of an artist in his prime. He was invited to participate in the Secession’s 49th exhibition, held in Vienna in 1918. Schiele had fifty works accepted for this exhibition, and they were displayed in the main hall. He also designed a poster for the exhibition, which was reminiscent of the Last Supper, with a portrait of himself in the place of Christ. The show was a triumphant success, and as a result, prices for Schiele’s drawings increased and he received many portrait commissions.

In the autumn of 1918, the Spanish flu pandemic that claimed more than 20,000,000 lives in Europe reached Vienna. Edith, who was six months pregnant, succumbed to the disease on 28th October. Schiele died only three days after his wife. He was 28 years old. During the three days between their deaths, Schiele drew a few sketches of Edith.

Fortunately Schiele was not Viennese, so I do not have to pummel my brain for a new recipe. He came from Lower Austria, and it’s important to realize that Viennese cuisine and Austrian cuisine are not synonymous. As in every European nation there are regional styles of cooking that are readily identifiable. Lower Austria is noted for its apricot production and, hence, an apricot stuffed dumpling called Marillenknödel. The dough is made using quark, German word for “curds” which have been whipped and resemble yoghurt somewhat. You can buy it in the US and Britain if you hunt. Otherwise, substitute cottage cheese.



5 tbsp butter, melted
1 cup/8oz quark (or cottage cheese, well drained)
2 eggs, lightly beaten
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 ½ lb fresh apricots (8-10)
12 (approx.) sugar cubes
⅓ cup butter
1 cup fine dry breadcrumbs
3 tbsp granulated sugar


In a large bowl combine the melted butter, quark, a pinch of salt, eggs and most of the flour. Use a wooden spoon then your hands to knead into a soft dough.  Don’t add more flour than necessary. Shape into a ball, cover and let stand 30 minutes.

Wash and dry the apricots, then cut them in halves, remove and discard the pit. Place 1 sugar cube between each pair of apricot halves and set aside.

Bring 3 quarts of lightly salted water to a gentle boil in a large pot.

On a lightly floured board, press or roll out the dough to a ½” thickness. Cut into 2”squares. Place a stuffed apricot (2 halves with a sugar cube in the middle) in the center of each square of dough. Press the dough around the fruit, covering them completely and as evenly as possible.

Add the dumplings to the gently boiling water in batches and cook for 10 minutes. Don’t let the water boil too vigorously or the dumplings will fall apart before cooking. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on wire racks.

Melt ⅓ cup of butter in a medium skillet. Add the breadcrumbs and 3 tablespoons of granulated sugar and sauté until caramelized a golden brown. Roll the dumplings in the caramelized breadcrumbs to completely coat.

Jun 142016


Today is the anniversary of the Battle of Marengo fought in 1800, a decisive and momentous battle in what are now known as the Napoleonic Wars. I rarely “celebrate” battles in this blog because I am fundamentally opposed to war, and I am not going to dwell on the actual details of the battle. But Marengo had widespread consequences throughout Europe. Furthermore, the battle spawned the name of a much celebrated dish – Chicken Marengo – although the history of the recipe and its precise form is disputed to this day.

The battle of Marengo was fought between French and Austrian forces near the city of Alessandria, in Piedmont in northern Italy (roughly midway between Milan and Genoa). The French overcame General Michael von Melas’ surprise attack near the end of the day, driving the Austrians out of Italy, and enhancing Napoleon’s political position in Paris as First Consul of France in the wake of his coup d’état the previous November.


Surprised by the Austrian advance toward Genoa in mid-April 1800, Bonaparte had hastily led his army over the Alps in mid-May and reached Milan on 2 June. After cutting Melas’ line of communications by crossing the river Po and defeating Feldmarschallleutnant  Peter Karl Ott von Bátorkéz at Montebello on 9 June, the French closed in on the Austrian army, which had massed in Alessandria. Deceived by a local double agent, Bonaparte dispatched large forces to the north and south, but the Austrians launched a surprise attack on 14 June against the main French army under General Louis Alexandre Berthier.

Initially, their two assaults across the Fontanone stream near Marengo village were repelled, and General Jean Lannes reinforced the French right. Bonaparte realized the true position and issued orders at 11:00 am to recall the detachment under Général de Division Louis Desaix, while moving his reserve forward. On the Austrian left, Ott’s column had taken Castel Ceriolo, and its advance guard moved south to attack Lannes’ flank. Melas renewed the main assault and the Austrians broke the central French position. By 2:30 pm the French were withdrawing and Austrian dragoons seized the Marengo farm. Bonaparte had by then arrived with the reserve, but Berthier’s troops began to fall back on the main vine belts. Knowing Desaix was approaching, Bonaparte was anxious about a column of Ott’s soldiers marching from the north, so he deployed his Consular Guard infantry to delay it. The French then withdrew steadily eastward toward San Giuliano Vecchio as the Austrians formed a column to follow them in line with Ott’s advance in the northern sector.


Desaix’s arrival around 5:30 pm stabilized the French position as the 9th Light Infantry Regiment delayed the Austrian advance down the main road and the rest of the army re-formed north of Cascina Grossa. As the pursuing Austrian troops arrived, a mix of musketry and artillery fire concealed the surprise attack of Général de Brigade François Étienne de Kellermann’s cavalry, which threw the Austrian pursuit into disordered flight back into Alessandria, with about 14,000 killed, wounded, or captured. The French casualties were considerably fewer, but included Desaix. The whole French line chased after the Austrians to seal a victory of major political consequences because it secured Bonaparte’s grip on power after the coup. It would be followed by a propaganda campaign, which sought to rewrite the story of the battle three times during Napoleon’s rule. As a small aside, “propaganda” is an English loan word from Italian (ultimately from Latin), with an original meaning of to “propagate” or “spread around” (and not pejorative originally). It was a huge victory for Napoleon, but he sought to make it into a triumph of brilliant strategy – enhancing his status as a general and leader – instead of a series of lucky mistakes and potential blunders that ended up in his favor. Napoleon came close to losing earlier in the day.

Napoleon sought to ensure that his victory would not be forgotten, so, besides the propaganda campaign, he entrusted General Chasseloup with the construction of a pyramid on the site of the battle. On 5 May 1805, a ceremony took place on the field of Marengo. Napoleon, dressed in the uniform he wore on 14 June 1800, together with Empress Joséphine seated on a throne placed under a tent, oversaw a military parade. Then, Chasseloup gave Napoleon the founding stone, on which was inscribed: “Napoleon, Emperor of the French and King of Italy, to the manes of the defenders of the fatherland who perished on the day of Marengo.” This pyramid was actually part of a very ambitious project meant to glorify Bonaparte’s conquests in Italy. The field of Marengo was supposed to become the site of a “city of Victories” whose boulevards, named after Italian battles, would converge to the pyramid. In the event, the project was abandoned in 1815 and the stones recovered by local farmers. The column erected in 1801 was also removed, but restored in 1922.


There is now a museum dedicated to the battle on the outskirts of Alessandria. Re-enactments are organized there every year on the second Sunday in June to commemorate the event. I was quite surprised when I first taught the history of the French Revolution in Italian schools to discover that Napoleon is considered a hero by many Italians because he drove the Austrians out of northern Italy and, in a sense, paved the way for the unification of Italy, half a century later. Marengo was the name of a greyish-brown color used for fabric produced in the vicinity before the battle, and a coat of that color became Napoleon’s signature color in common battle portrayals. He also named his battle horse and several warships in honor of the victory. The power of propaganda.


The battle of Marengo also gave its name to the classic dish, Chicken Marengo, whose origins are encapsulated in an entirely fictitious legend. According to the legend, the dish was first made after Napoleon defeated the Austrian army at Marengo when his personal chef Dunand foraged in the town for ingredients (because the supply wagons were too distant) and created the dish from what he could gather. According to this legend, Napoleon enjoyed the dish so much he had it served to him after every battle, and when Durand was later better-supplied and substituted mushrooms for crayfish and added wine to the recipe, Napoleon refused to accept it, believing that a change would bring him bad luck.

Nice story, but with no merit whatsoever – even though, like so much of the folklore of “origins,” it is endlessly retold as fact. Dunand (or Dunan) did not become Napoleon’s chef until several years later, and tomatoes would not have been available at that time of year in that region, never mind crayfish. It’s much more likely that the dish was created by a French restaurant chef to honor the victory.

The recipe for Chicken Marengo varies considerably. The most distinctive, and possibly historically accurate,  consists of chicken sautéed in oil with garlic and tomato, finished with wine, and served on toast garnished with fried eggs and crayfish. Without the toast, egg, and crayfish, the dish resembles chicken à la Provençale, and that is how it is often presented nowadays.

Baron Brisse gives this recipe in 1868 in his classic cookbook:

Chicken à la Marengo.
Cut up a chicken into joints, and cook in olive oil and a little salt, put in the legs before the other pieces, as they take longer to cook. When a good colour and nearly done, add a bouquet of mixed herbs, pepper, mushrooms, and some slices of truffles; place the chicken on a dish, and add the oil drip by drop to some Italian sauce; stir the whole time. When warm, pour over the chicken, and garnish with fried eggs and sippets of fried bread. If preferred, clarified butter may be used instead of oil.

Italian Sauce.
Simmer a lump of butter as big as two eggs in a saucepan, with two tablespoonsful of chopped parsley, one tablespoonful of chopped eschalots, and the same quantity of minced mushrooms, add a bottle of white wine; reduce the sauce, and moisten with a tumblerful of velouté sauce and half a tumblerful of stock; boil over a quick fire, skim off all grease, and as soon as the sauce is thick enough, take off the fire, and keep warm in a bain-marie.

Isabella Beeton gives this recipe in 1861, suggesting that the dish had spread to England by this time but we must remember that she copied most of her recipes from other sources. Nonetheless, some form of the dish appears to have been popular by mid century.


  1. INGREDIENTS.—1 large fowl, 4 tablespoonfuls of salad oil, 1 tablespoonful of flour, 1 pint of stock No. 105, or water, about 20 mushroom-buttons, salt and pepper to taste, 1 teaspoonful of powdered sugar, a very small piece of garlic.

Mode.—Cut the fowl into 8 or 10 pieces; put them with the oil into a stewpan, and brown them over a moderate fire; dredge in the above proportion of flour; when that is browned, pour in the stock or water; let it simmer very slowly for rather more than 1/2 hour, and skim off the fat as it rises to the top; add the mushrooms; season with salt, pepper, garlic, and sugar; take out the fowl, which arrange pyramidically on the dish, with the inferior joints at the bottom. Reduce the sauce by boiling it quickly over the fire, keeping it stirred until sufficiently thick to adhere to the back of a spoon; pour over the fowl, and serve.

Time.—Altogether 50 minutes. Average cost, 3s. 6d.

Sufficient for 3 or 4 persons.

Seasonable at any time.

Mrs Beeton concludes with the much-repeated fable:

A FOWL À LA MARENGO.—The following is the origin of the well-known dish Poulet à la Marengo:—On the evening of the battle the first consul was very hungry after the agitation of the day, and a fowl was ordered with all expedition. The fowl was procured, but there was no butter at hand, and unluckily none could be found in the neighbourhood. There was oil in abundance, however; and the cook having poured a certain quantity into his skillet, put in the fowl, with a clove of garlic and other seasoning, with a little white wine, the best the country afforded; he then garnished it with mushrooms, and served it up hot. This dish proved the second conquest of the day, as the first consul found it most agreeable to his palate, and expressed his satisfaction. Ever since, a fowl à la Marengo is a favourite dish with all lovers of good cheer.

Pellegrino Artusi’s Italian recipe in his legendary Science of Cooking and the Art of Eating Well (1891) is as follows:

Take a young chicken, remove the neck and legs, and cut into large pieces at the joints. Sauté in 30 grams (about 1 ounce) of butter and one tablespoon of olive oil, seasoning with salt, pepper, and a dash of nutmeg. When the pieces have browned on both sides, skim the fat and add a level tablespoon of flour and a deciliter (about 7 fluid ounces) of wine. Add broth and cover, cooking over low heat until done. Before removing from the fire, garnish with a pinch of chopped parsley; arrange on a serving dish and squeeze half a lemon over it. The result is an appetizing dish.

What are we to make of all of this? Not much, I’m afraid, except to say that there is no canonical recipe. The idea of chicken with crayfish and wine served with an egg on fried bread appeals to me though, so here’s my version. I make no claim to this being an “authentic” recipe: there’s no such thing. Some people make something similar today using small shrimp instead of crayfish. You can use bone-in chicken pieces, but boneless breasts are easier to eat.


© Chicken Marengo


4 skinless and boneless chicken breasts
2 tbsp olive oil
flour for dredging
¼ cup brandy
6 oz crayfish, tails, shelled
1 onion, peeled and diced
2 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced thin
1 cup chicken stock
½ cup dry white wine
1 tsp powdered thyme (or one fresh sprig)
1 tbsp freshly chopped parsley
salt and pepper
4 slices toast
4 eggs


Dredge the chicken breasts lightly in flour seasoned with salt and pepper to taste.

Heat the olive oil in a heavy cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat, and sauté the chicken breast until golden on all sides. In the final minutes add the onions and garlic, and cook them until they are translucent but not browned.

Heat the brandy in a small pan, allowing it to flame, and then pour it over the chicken. Add the white wine, stock, thyme, and parsley, and bring to a slow simmer.  Cook until the chicken is tender (about 30 minutes), and add the crayfish tails at the end. The sauce should be somewhat thickened at this point, but can be reduced if need be.

Serve the chicken and sauce over toast and place a fried egg on top.

Serves: 4


Apr 282016


Today is the birthday (1906) of Kurt Gödel, Austrian mathematician, logician and philosopher. Gödel is one of my great intellectual heroes, even though he is hardly a household name. His incompleteness theorems, for which he is famous, are the bedrock of my general thinking about the nature of human thought and belief. I’ll try to discuss his work in plain language even though in so doing I will inevitably oversimplify it.

Gödel  was born in Brünn when it was part of Austria-Hungary (now Brno, Czech Republic) into the ethnic German family of Rudolf Gödel, the manager of a textile factory, and Marianne Gödel (née Handschuh). At the time of his birth the city had a German-speaking majority] which included his parents. His father was Catholic and his mother was Protestant and the children were raised Protestant.

Gödel automatically became a Czechoslovak citizen at age 12 when the Austro-Hungarian Empire broke up at the end of World War I. According to his classmate Klepetař, like many residents of the predominantly German Sudetenländer, “Gödel always considered himself Austrian and an exile in Czechoslovakia.” He chose to become an Austrian citizen at age 23. When Germany annexed Austria in 1938, Gödel automatically became a German citizen at age 32. After World War II, at the age of 42, he became a U.S. citizen.

In his family, young Gödel was known as Herr Warum (“Mr. Why”) because of his insatiable curiosity. He attended the Evangelische Volksschule, a Lutheran school in Brünn from 1912 to 1916, and was enrolled in the Deutsches Staats-Realgymnasium from 1916 to 1924, excelling with honors in all his subjects, particularly in mathematics, languages, and religion. Although Kurt had first excelled in languages, he later became more interested in history and mathematics. His interest in mathematics increased when in 1920 his older brother Rudolf (born 1902) left for Vienna to go to medical school at the University of Vienna. In his teens, Gödel studied Gabelsberger shorthand, Goethe’s Theory of Colours and criticisms of Isaac Newton, and the writings of Immanuel Kant.

At the age of 18, Gödel joined his brother in Vienna and entered the University of Vienna. By that time, he had already mastered university-level mathematics and initially intended to study theoretical physics. He also attended lectures on mathematics and philosophy, and participated in the Vienna Circle of philosophers with Moritz Schlick, Hans Hahn, and Rudolf Carnap. Gödel then studied number theory, but when he took part in a seminar run by Moritz Schlick which studied Bertrand Russell’s Introduction to Mathematical Philosophy, he became interested in mathematical logic. According to Gödel, mathematical logic was “a science prior to all others, which contains the ideas and principles underlying all sciences.”


Gödel chose to study completeness in logic for his doctoral work. Put simply, completeness is a quality of a logical system – such as arithmetic or geometry – whereby every statement within the system can be proven to be true without resort to statements outside the system. Mathematicians had been trying for millennia, without success, for example, to prove that Euclid’s 5 axioms, or postulates – statements that classical geometry rests on – could be shown to be true using reasoning within geometry. If you accept these axioms, there are countless theorems you can derive from them, such as the Pythagorean theorem, but mathematicians were not happy that the axioms themselves could not be proven to be true. They seem to be true – self evidently – but no one could prove them to be true.

In 1929, at the age of 23, Gödel completed his doctoral dissertation under Hans Hahn’s supervision. In it, he established the completeness of the first-order predicate calculus (Gödel’s completeness theorem). He was awarded his doctorate in 1930. His thesis, along with some additional work, was published by the Vienna Academy of Science. So far so good. BUT . . . in 1931, while still in Vienna, Gödel published his incompleteness theorems in Über formal unentscheidbare Sätze der “Principia Mathematica” und verwandter Systeme (called in English “On Formally Undecidable Propositions of “Principia Mathematica” and Related Systems”). In that article, he proved that arithmetic is incomplete. This was an astounding and revolutionary idea. Again in simple terms, Gödel proved that although arithmetic is a powerful system capable of great things, it rests on premises that cannot be proven. This led to his basic notion of the incompleteness of mathematics summed up in two statements:

If a system is consistent, it cannot be complete.

The consistency of the axioms cannot be proven within the system.

This notion is usually expressed simply as that “in any logical system there will always be at least one statement which is true but cannot be proven to be true.”

I just love it. All the smarty pants in the world who hammer religion because it is based on faith whereas science is based on “proven fact” don’t know what they are talking about. Yes, religion is based on faith, SO IS SCIENCE !!! Logical proof has limits and there’s no way round this.


In 1933, Gödel first traveled to the U.S., where he met Albert Einstein, who became a good friend, and  delivered an address to the annual meeting of the American Mathematical Society. In 1934 Gödel gave a series of lectures at the Institute for Advanced Study (IAS) in Princeton, New Jersey, entitled “On undecidable propositions of formal mathematical systems.” Stephen Kleene, who had just completed his PhD at Princeton, took notes of these lectures that have been subsequently published.

Gödel married Adele Nimbursky (née Porkert, 1899–1981), whom he had known for over 10 years, on September 20, 1938. Their relationship had been opposed by his parents on the grounds that she was a divorced dancer, six years older than he was. Subsequently, he left for another visit to the USA, spending the autumn of 1938 at the IAS and the spring of 1939 at the University of Notre Dame.


After the Anschluss in 1938, Austria became a part of Nazi Germany. Germany abolished his university post, so Gödel had to apply for a different position under the new order. His former association with Jewish members of the Vienna Circle, especially with Hahn, weighed against him. The University of Vienna turned his application down. His predicament intensified when the German army found him fit for conscription. World War II started in September 1939. Before the year was up, Gödel and his wife left Vienna for Princeton. To avoid the difficulty of an Atlantic crossing, the Gödels took the trans-Siberian railway to the Pacific, sailed from Japan to San Francisco (which they reached on March 4, 1940), then crossed the U.S. by train to Princeton, where Gödel accepted a position at the Institute for Advanced Study (IAS).


Albert Einstein was also living at Princeton during this time, and Gödel and Einstein developed a strong friendship. They took long walks together to and from the Institute for Advanced Study, deep in conversation. Economist Oskar Morgenstern recounts that toward the end of his life Einstein confided that his “own work no longer meant much, but he came to the Institute merely to have the privilege of walking home with Gödel.”

On December 5, 1947, Einstein and Morgenstern accompanied Gödel to his U.S. citizenship exam, where they acted as witnesses. Gödel had confided in them that he had discovered an inconsistency in the U.S. Constitution that could allow the U.S. to become a dictatorship. Einstein and Morgenstern were concerned that their friend’s unpredictable behavior might jeopardize his application. Fortunately, the judge turned out to be Phillip Forman, who knew Einstein and had administered the oath at Einstein’s own citizenship hearing. Everything went smoothly until Forman happened to ask Gödel if he thought a dictatorship like the Nazi regime could happen in the U.S. Gödel then started to explain his discovery to Forman. Forman understood what was going on, cut Gödel off, and moved the hearing on to other questions and a routine conclusion.

Gödel became a permanent member of the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton in 1946. Around this time he stopped publishing, though he continued to work. He became a full professor at the Institute in 1953 and an emeritus professor in 1976. During his many years at the Institute, Gödel’s interests turned to philosophy and physics. In 1949, he demonstrated the existence of solutions involving closed time-like curves, to Albert Einstein’s field equations in general relativity. He is said to have given this elaboration to Einstein as a present for his 70th birthday. His “rotating universes” would allow time travel to the past and caused Einstein to have doubts about his own theory. His solutions are known as the Gödel metric (an exact solution of the Einstein field equation).

In the early 1970s, Gödel circulated among his friends an elaboration of Leibniz’ version of Anselm of Canterbury’s ontological proof of God’s existence. This is now known as Gödel’s ontological proof.


I won’t go over it with you. It has the same problems that Anselm’s and Leibniz’ proofs do, namely, the axioms are unprovable. Gödel hoist on his own petard !!!


Gödel was a convinced theist, in the Christian tradition. He held the notion that God was personal, which differed from the religious views of his friend Albert Einstein. He believed firmly in an afterlife, stating: “Of course this supposes that there are many relationships which today’s science and received wisdom haven’t any inkling of. But I am convinced of this [the afterlife], independently of any theology.” It is “possible today to perceive, by pure reasoning” that it “is entirely consistent with known facts.” “If the world is rationally constructed and has meaning, then there must be such a thing [as an afterlife].”

In an (unmailed) answer to a questionnaire, Gödel described his religion as “baptized Lutheran (but not member of any religious congregation). My belief is theistic, not pantheistic, following Leibniz rather than Spinoza.” In describing religion in general, Gödel said: “Religions are, for the most part, bad—but religion is not”. According to his wife Adele, “Gödel, although he did not go to church, was religious and read the Bible in bed every Sunday morning”, while of Islam, he said, “I like Islam: it is a consistent [or consequential] idea of religion and open-minded”. So much, again, for the smarty pants who think that if you are intelligent you can’t believe in God.

I am fully in accord with Gödel in this regard. It is certainly true that a great many religious statements are ridiculous, and a great many religious beliefs are idiotic, but that does not mean that basic religious beliefs are false. And we have Gödel to thank for showing that science and mathematics are every bit based on faith as religion is.

Later in his life, Gödel suffered periods of mental instability and illness. He had an obsessive fear of being poisoned; he would eat only food that his wife, Adele, prepared for him. Late in 1977, she was hospitalized for six months and could no longer prepare her husband’s food. In her absence, he refused to eat, eventually starving to death. He weighed 65 pounds (approximately 30 kg) when he died. I will admit that there is a fair degree of irrationality in starving yourself to death because you are afraid of being poisoned. His death certificate reported that he died of “malnutrition and inanition caused by personality disturbance” in Princeton Hospital on January 14, 1978. He was buried in Princeton Cemetery. Adele’s death followed in 1981.


I don’t know what Adele made for him, but maybe she cooked sauerkraut soup once in a while. Sauerkraut is one of several dishes that Czechs and Germans agree upon as delectable, and you can find versions of sauerkraut soup in Germany, Austria, and the Czech Republic with the ingredients, other than sauerkraut varying somewhat. In this recipe you can use a German or Polish sausage depending on your tastes. You may also add a little pickle juice from the sauerkraut if you like. Be sure to have plenty of crusty bread on hand to dip into the broth.

Sauerkraut Soup


7 oz sauerkraut
6 cups light broth
2 potatoes, diced
2 tbs flour
1 onion, diced
4 slices bacon, finely diced
1 large sausage, sliced thinly
5-10 white mushrooms, diced
1 tsp caraway seeds
1-2 tsp sweet paprika


Sauté the finely diced bacon over medium-low heat in a large heavy pot. There is no need to add oil. When the fat is flowing, add the sliced Polish sausage, mushrooms and onion, and sauté for about 5 min.     Sprinkle with flour and stir everything around to mix. Add the drained sauerkraut, diced potatoes, caraway seeds and paprika and stir again.  Add the broth and salt to taste and cook until the potatoes are tender.

Serve in deep bowls with crusty bread. If you like you can pass around sour cream for guests to add.