What can a monument for Kurt Gödel in the 21st century look like?

Honouring outstanding academics is of great importance to the University of Vienna

Mathematician, philosopher and logician Kurt Gödel (Brno 1906 – Princeton 1978) is one of the most important scientists of the 20th century and has carried out essential parts of his groundbreaking work at the University of Vienna. In 2023, colleagues at various faculties proposed to dedicate a monument to Gödel in the Arcaded Courtyard of the University of Vienna. The Rectorate and the Senate are responsible for such honours. The outstanding importance of Gödel and a corresponding honour conferred by the University of Vienna were, of course, always undisputed. However, the fundamental question was how the University can appropriately honour and remember outstanding academics in the 21st century. A working group established jointly by the Rectorate and the Senate exclusively discussed this question.
The Arcaded Courtyard, designed by Heinrich von Ferstel, is an important historic ensemble committed to the 19th-century notion of ‘historic monuments’, in which academics were honoured in the form of busts. The vast majority of the busts in the Arcaded Courtyard dates back to the period before World War I. This form of monuments is long outdated, not only from an artistic point of view. Therefore, no busts have been erected in the Arcaded Courtyard for decades. On the occasion of the 650th anniversary of the University of Vienna in 2015, however, busts of Charlotte Bühler, Marie Jahoda, Berta Karlik, Lise Meitner, Grete Mostny, Elise Richter and Olga Taussky-Todd were – finally and long overdue – added to the ensemble, thus integrating seven influential female academics into the previously exclusively male ‘pantheon of science’ in decidedly new artistic forms. With these contemporary interventions, the historic ensemble of the Arcaded Courtyard has been meaningfully completed.
Honouring outstanding academics is of great importance to the University of Vienna. Remembering their personalities and presenting their achievements to the younger generations contributes significantly to the University's reputation and is an effective tool for science communication. Memorials can and should be erected at the University also in the future. However, the 21st century calls for new artistic concepts and accompanying communication formats. Intense discussions on where and in what form an appropriate monument for Kurt Gödel could be erected at the University of Vienna are already in progress. A simple continuation of monuments in the concept of historicism does not do justice to this outstanding thinker.


Mag. Alexandra Frey

Media Relations Manager
Universität Wien
1010 - Wien, Universitätsring 1