Peter Gay


Biography of Peter Gay

Peter Gay (born June 20, 1923) is Sterling Professor of History Emeritus at Yale University and former director of the New York Public Library's Center for Scholars and Writers (1997–2003). Gay received the American Historical Association's (AHA) Award for Scholarly Distinction in 2004. He is the author of more than twenty-five books, including The Enlightenment: An Interpretation, a multi-volume award winner; Weimar Culture: The Outsider as Insider (1968), a bestseller; and the widely translated Freud: A Life for Our Time (1988).

Peter Gay was born in Berlin, Germany in 1923 and emigrated to the United States in 1941. From 1962 to 1969 he was Professor of History at Columbia University. He joined Yale University’s History Department as Professor of Comparative and Intellectual European History in 1969, and was named Sterling Professor of History in 1984.

Born in 1923 as Peter Joachim Fröhlich in Berlin, Gay and his family fled from Nazi Germany in 1939 and arrived in America in 1941. In Berlin he was educated at the Goethe-Gymnasium. His family initially booked passage on the MS St. Louis (whose passengers were eventually denied visas) but fortuitously changed their booking to an earlier voyage to Cuba. He came to the United States in 1941 and took American citizenship in 1946 where he changed his name from Fröhlich (German for "happy") to Gay. Gay received his education at the University of Denver, where he was awarded a BA in 1946 and at Columbia University where he was awarded an MA in 1947 and PhD in 1951. Gay worked as political science professor at Columbia between 1948–1955 and as history professor from 1955-1969. He taught at Yale from 1969 until his retirement in 1993. He was married to Ruth Slotkin (died 2006) in 1959 and has three stepchildren.

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