National Academies Press: OpenBook

Biographical Memoirs: Volume 62 (1993)


Suggested Citation:"FAMILY BACKGROUND." National Academy of Sciences. 1993. Biographical Memoirs: Volume 62. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/2201.
Page 69

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MAX LUDWIG HENNING DELBRÜCK 69 FAMILY BACKGROUND Max grew up in the Grunewald suburb of Berlin, the youngest of seven children (four girls and three boys) of an extremely prominent academic family. His father, Hans Delbrück, who was 58 years older than Max, was Professor of History at Berlin University, specializing in the history of the art of war, as well as sole editor for at least 30 years of a monthly journal, Preussische Jahrbücher, for which he wrote a column commenting on German politics. Three of his father's first cousins were, respectively, Professor of German Literature at Jena, Chief Justice of the Imperial Supreme Court, and Minister of State. His maternal great-grandfather was the famous Justus von Liebig, Professor of Chemistry at Giessen and Münich, Foreign Member of the Royal Society, and Copley Medalist. His mother's brother-in-law, Adolf von Harnack, was Professor of Theology at Berlin University and a church historian; he was also Director of the Prussian State Library and, in 1910, became co-founder and President of the Kaiser-Wilhelm-Gesellschaft. The Harnacks, the Delbrück's nearest relatives, were also a large family and lived next door, while Karl Bonhoeffer, a Professor of Psychiatry, and his family were around the corner and the Max Planck family not far away. One of the Bonhoeffer sons, Klaus, married Max Delbrück's sister Emmie. Max's family enjoyed "a modest degree of affluence and apparently the life until 1914 was pretty free and very hospitable. As war came and life became more and more of a nightmare in every respect, of course all this darkened …. I think three-quarters of the young men in the family [including his eldest brother] were killed. So that was all very sad, and in addition then there came these pretty severe food and coal shortages and then the total mess in 1918.

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Biographic Memoirs: Volume 62 contains the biographies of deceased members of the National Academy of Sciences and bibliographies of their published works. Each biographical essay was written by a member of the Academy familiar with the professional career of the deceased. For historical and bibliographical purposes, these volumes are worth returning to time and again.

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