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The Papers of Max Bredig

 Collection
Identifier: 2020-011

Scope and Content

The collection’s scope covers the entirety of Max’s professional career and a large portion of his personal life. The contents include many photographs that document Max’s life in Germany prior to Nazi rule. Personal correspondence from Max Bredig to friends and family members for the years 1933-1945 is largely housed among the Papers of Georg and Max Bredig, which are also held by the Science History Institute. The collection is arranged into the following six series:

  1. Correspondence, 1908-1976, undated
  2. Subject Files, 1899-1978, undated
  3. Publications, 1889-1976, undated
  4. Photographic Materials, 1900-1950, undated
  5. Artifacts, 1920-1945
  6. Oversized, 1925-1945

Dates

  • 1889-1978
  • Majority of material found within Bulk 1925-1965

Creator

Access Restrictions

The Papers of Max Bredig are open to researchers with the exception of the following file:

Box 5 Folder 50 is closed to researchers until January 1, 2052.

Copyright Information

In most cases, copyright to the manuscript material in the collection is held by the Science History Institute. This includes all manuscript material created by Max Bredig, but not necessarily the incoming correspondence. Copyright for any specific item should be determined on an individual basis as the collection contains an assortment of material still under copyright, as well as orphaned works and items in the public domain. The researcher assumes full responsibility for all copyright, property, and libel laws as they apply.

Background Note

Max Albert Bredig was born in Heidelberg, Germany on June 20, 1902. He was raised alongside his younger sister Marianne in Karlsruhe, where his father, Georg, served as the Director of the Institute of Physical Chemistry at the Technical University of Karlsruhe. Showing an early aptitude for physical chemistry, Max followed in his father’s footsteps and attended the Technical University in Karlsruhe to begin his own training. Max earned the equivalent of a master’s degree in 1925 from Karlsruhe and received his doctorate in 1926 under the direction of his father’s friend and colleague, Fritz Haber at the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute in Berlin.

With Haber’s recommendation, Bredig obtained employment as a research chemist at the Bavarian Nitrogen Works, where he oversaw the x-ray and optical division. These were halcyon days for Bredig. In addition to his work which he took great pride in, Max enjoyed playing the piano, drawing, sailing, and hiking.

When the National Socialists seized power in 1933, Max, like all Germans of Jewish heritage, increasingly became the target of anti-Semitic attacks. His father was soon forced into an early retirement after the Nazi government passed the Law for the Restoration of the Professional Civil Service, which banned Jews from teaching at German Universities.

Gradually, the Nazi regime stripped away more and more rights from German Jews, until finally, the Nuremberg Laws of 1935 stripped Jews of their German citizenship entirely. At the Bavarian Nitrogen Works, Max’s colleagues began warning him that the firm would soon be Aryanized and that his continued employment at the firm would soon be impossible. Max took the warnings around him seriously and began planning to emigrate out of the country.

Max fled Nazi Germany in 1937, travelling first to Sweden, and then to England, before finally arriving at the University of Michigan where he had accepted a fellowship to work in the Department of Chemical and Metallurgical Engineering. Here, he would work alongside one of his father’s best pupils, Kasimir Fajans, who himself had immigrated just a year earlier.

Although now free from the oppressive yoke of the Nazi regime, the thoughts of those Max left behind were always close to the surface. He worked tirelessly to bring his father to the U.S. and to secure the release of his sister and brother-in-law from the Gurs concentration camp. Having successfully reunited with his father, sister, and brother-in-law in New York, Max began a family of his own. He married Lydia Levy in 1944 and together they had one son named George.

In 1946 Max was hired by Eugene Wigner, the Director of Research and Development at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. Bredig and Wigner were once colleagues in Berlin and Wigner recognized Bredig’s talent for x-ray diffraction as a potentially useful technique at Oak Ridge. Max remained at Oak Ridge in a variety of positions until his death on November 21, 1977.

Today, Max Bredig is remembered as a first-rate scientist. He published approximately 100 papers and is probably best known for his work on the interaction of molten metallic halides with their metals. He was a member of many scientific organizations including, the American Chemical Society, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the Chemists’ Club, the American Crystallographic Association, and the Tennessee Academy of Sciences. The mineral bredigite, Ca7Mg (SiO4)4, was even named in his honor, for the work he did studying the mineral’s polymorphism. To this day, the Max Bredig Award is given out by the Electrochemical Society to recognize excellence in molten salt and ionic liquid chemistry research, in recognition of Max’s seminal work.

Extent

27.0 Linear Feet (23 Boxes.)

Language of Materials

German

English

Abstract

The Papers of Max Bredig contain manuscripts, photographs, publications, and artifacts which were created or collected by Max Bredig. The collection documents Max’s early life and career in Germany and contains a large amount of family and personal correspondence. The personal correspondence shifts to predominantly professional correspondence after he immigrated to the United States in 1933. Max’s career as a physical chemist at the Vanadium Corporation of America and later the Oak Ridge National Laboratory is well documented among these papers. This collection is an addendum to the Papers of Georg and Max Bredig located at the Science History Institute.

Acquisition Information

This collection is an addendum to the Papers of Georg and Max Bredig which was purchased by the Science History Institute in April 2019. The items in this collection were inherited by George Bredig after the death of his parents and were acquired by the Science History Institute in October 2020.

Digitized Materials

Selected photographs from this collection have been digitized and are available online in our Digital Collections: https://digital.sciencehistory.org/collections/w8nb9ms

Related Materials

Papers of Georg and Max Bredig, Science History Institute, Philadelphia, PA. Papers of Ernst Berl, Science History Institute Archives, Philadelphia, PA. Ernst Berl Papers, United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, Washington, D.C. Kasimir Fajans Papers, Bentley Historical Library, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI.

Processing Information

The collection was processed by Patrick H. Shea in November 2021. Prior to its sale to the Science History Institute, the collection was sorted and packed by the owner. In most cases, the original order of the creator was preserved.

Title
The Papers of Max Bredig
Status
Completed
Author
Finding aid created by Patrick H. Shea and encoded into EAD by Kenton G. Jaehnig.
Date
2021
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
English
Script of description
Latin

Revision Statements

  • 08/2023: Digitized Materials note added.

Repository Details

Part of the Science History Institute Archives Repository

Contact:
315 Chestnut Street
Philadelphia PA 19106 United States
215.873.8265
215.873.5265 (Fax)