Kurt Heinrich Wolff

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Kurt Heinrich Wolff (May 20, 1912 in Darmstadt – September 14, 2003 in Newton, Massachusetts), was an American sociologist. As a sociologist of knowledge he was also translator and divulger from German into English of many works by Georg Simmel and by Karl Mannheim.


After graduating in Darmstadt in 1932, Wolff began the philosophical and sociological studies in Frankfurt, where he attended lectures by Karl Mannheim, and later in Munich, Bavaria.

In 1933, because of the Anti-Jewish laws introduced in Germany, with the help of his future wife, Carla Bruck, he moved to Florence, Italy where he enrolled at the Faculty of Philosophy.

Meaningful of those years, the friendship with his classmate, Aurelio Pace, the future Historian of Africa and the Joseph Pace artist's father, who in those years helped him translate from German into Italian the doctoral thesis "Sociology of Knowledge"[1] which Wolff discusses in 1935 with Ludovico Limentani.[2] Until 1939 Wolff remained in Italy and with the support of his wife and his friend Pace, got a job as a teacher before in Florence and after in Camogli. Because of the fascist racial laws, Wolff and his wife left Italy in 1939. After a short stay in England, he went to the U.S. where, in 1945, took U.S. citizenship.

With the help of a nephew in 1939, Wolff got a job as an assistant professor of sociology at the Southern Methodist University (Texas). Four years later, in 1943, he was awarded a scholarship from the Social Science Research Council, which allowed him to study at the University of Chicago and to conduct field research in New Mexico. The following year he was appointed as a professor of sociology at the Earlham College (Indiana), and in 1952 at Ohio State University.

In 1959 he moved to Brandeis University where he taught until 1993. From 1964, Wolff was a Sociological Abstracts Council member and a visiting professor for one year to the University of Freiburg (1966–67). He was the first translator and divulger in English of Georg Simmel[3] and Karl Mannheim.[4]

From 1966 to 1972, Kurt H. Wolff was the Chairman of the Research Committee's of Sociology of Knowledge of the International Sociological Association, and from 1972 to 1979 President of the "International Society for the Sociology of Knowledge". Wolff was also an honorary member of German Society for Sociology.

In 1987 in Darmstadt, his hometown, he was honored with the Medal of Johann Heinrich Merck.


  1. ^ Alberto Izzo, Quaderni di Teoria Sociale N.3, Edizioni Scientifiche Italiane, Italia, 2003
  2. ^ Joseph Pace Filtranisme, una vita da raccontare, Quattrocchi Lavinio Arte, Wobook PDF pp. 17, 18
  3. ^ Simmel, Georg, and Kurt H. Wolff. The Sociology of Georg Simmel. Glencoe, Ill.,: Free Press, 1950.
  4. ^ Joseph Pace Filtranisme, intervista, introduzione di Giampiero del Pozzo, Quattrochhi Lavinio Arte, p. 17 and 18, 2012, Anzio, Italia

Seclected works[edit]

  • Trying Sociology (1974).
  • Surrender and Catch (1976).
  • Versuch zu einer Wissenssoziologie (1968).
  • Hingebung und Begriff. Soziologische Essays (1968).
  • Die persönliche Geschichte eines Emigranten, in: Srubar, Ilja (Hg.), Exil, Wissenschaft, Identität. Die Emigration deutscher Sozialwissenschaftler 1933-1945, Frankfurt am Main: suhrkamp, 1988, S. 13-22 (hier auch Quelle).
  • Soziologie in der gefährdeten Welt (1998).
  • o´Loma! (1989).
  • Transformation in the Writing (1995).


  • Maier, J. (1984). "Wolff, Kurt H.". In Bernsdorf, Wilhelm; Knospe, Horst. Internationales Soziologenlexikon. 2 (2nd ed.). Stuttgart: Enke. pp. 934f. ISBN 3-432-90702-8. 

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