Kurt Gödel spent barely fifteen years in Vienna – less than in Brno, where he was born, and less than in Princeton, where he would die. However, the years from 1924 to 1939 constituted his formative period. He was deeply affected by the extraordinary cultural and intellectual flowering of what has been called “Vienna's Golden Autumn,” and he may one day be seen as its most prestigious scion.
The University of Vienna, in particular, played a pivotal part in Gödel's life. To the end, he remained grateful for the education it provided him; however, he could never forget the bureaucratic pettiness and the hassles he encountered from his alma mater's administration (Sigmund, 2006; Dawson and Sigmund, 2006; Sigmund et al., 2006; Buldt et al., 2002).
The story of Gödel's Vienna years can be divided into three parts: the first is a tale of brilliant success leading to early recognition, his PhD degree, and his Habilitation (professorial qualifications); the second part deals with the confused period between Hitler's rise to power in Germany and the Anschluss, the annexation of Austria in 1938, and is marked by political unrest as well as by long periods of leave due partly to Gödel's visits to Princeton in the 1930s and partly to his recurrent health problems that repeatedly forced him to withdraw into sanatoriums; and finally, the third part is dominated by Gödel's problems after the German takeover. He was politically suspect, plagued by hostile authorities and under the threat of being drafted into the Wehrmacht (Germany's unified armed forces).