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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). A recipient of the prestigious American Historical Association's (AHA) Award for Scholarly Distinction in 2004, Gay is internationally recognized as one of the foremost intellectual historians of his generation and a pioneer in the social history of ideas. He is the author of more than twenty-five books, including the National Book Award winner The Enlightenment: An Interpretation (1969), the best-selling Weimar Culture: The Outsider as Insider, (1968), and the widely translated Freud: A Life for Our Time. (1988) [1]

Peter Gay was born in Berlin, Germany in 1923 and emigrated to the United States in 1941. He received his BA from the University of Denver in Colorado in 1946, and his MA and Ph.D from Columbia University in 1947 and 1951, respectively. He has also been recognized with several honorary doctorates. 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.

According to the American Historical Association's Award Citation, Gay's range of "scholarly achievements is truly remarkable". His 1959 book, Voltaire's Politics examined Voltaire as a politician and how his politics influenced the ideas that Voltaire championed in his writings. Gay followed the success of Voltaire's Politics with a wider history of the Enlightenment, The Enlightenment: An Interpretation (1969), for which he was honored with the National Book Award in 1967[2] and the Mecher Book Prize. Gay's 1968 book, Weimar Culture was considered at the time to be a ground-breaking cultural history of the Weimar Republic. Starting in 1978 with Freud, Jews and Other Germans, an examination of the impact of Freudian ideas on German culture, Gay has become increasingly interested in psychology. Many of his works focus on the social impact of psychoanalysis. Gay is a leading champion of Psychohistory and an admirer of Sigmund Freud.



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.[3] In Berlin he was educated at the Goethe-Gymnasium. His family initially booked passage on the SS 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 is Jewish[4] and married Ruth Slotkin (died 2006) in 1959 and has three stepchildren.


Peter Gay has received numerous awards for his scholarship, including including the National Book Award in the category of History and Biography for The Enlightenment: An Interpretation:Vol. I, The Rise of Modern Paganism (1966); the first Amsterdam Prize for Historical Science from The Hague, 1990; and the Gold Medal of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, 1992. In addition, he was a Guggenheim Fellow in 1967–68 and in 1978–79, a Visiting Fellow at the Institute for Advanced Study in Berlin, Germany, and an Overseas Fellow of Churchill College University from 1970 to 1971. In 1988, he was honored by The New York Public Library as a Library Lion. The following year, he was elected to the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters. Professor Gay held an ACLS Fellowship in 1959–60. [5]

  • AHA Award for Scholarly Distinction.
  • Jewish Distinction Award
  • Civil Rights Awareness Award (Presented by the NAACP)
  • Geschwister-Scholl-Preis (Munich, 1999)

Publications (Books)

  • The Dilemma of Democratic Socialism: Eduard Bernstein's Challenge to Marx, 1952.
  • Voltaire's Politics: The Poet as Realist, 1959.
  • The Party of Humanity: Essays in the French Enlightenment, 1964.
  • The Enlightenment: An Interpretation: The Rise of Modern Paganism, 1966.
  • The Loss of Mastery: Puritan Historians in Colonial America, 1966.
  • Weimar Culture: The Outsider as Insider, 1968.
  • The Enlightenment: An Interpretation: The Science of Freedom, 1969.
  • The Bridge of Criticism: Dialogues on the Enlightenment, 1970.
  • Historians at Work, 1972.
  • co-written with R.K. Webb, Modern Europe, 1973.
  • The Enlightenment; A Comprehensive Anthology, 1973.
  • Style in History, 1974.
  • Art and Act: On Causes in History—Manet, Gropius, Mondrian, 1976.
  • Freud, Jews, and Other Germans: Masters and Victims in Modernist Culture, 1978.
  • Education of the Senses, 1984.
  • The Bourgeois Experience: Victoria to Freud - 5 vols, 1984-1998 (includes The Education of the Senses and The Cultivation of Hatred)
  • Freud for Historians, 1985.
  • The Tender Passion, 1986.
  • A Godless Jew: Freud, Atheism, and the Making of Psychoanalysis, 1987.
  • Freud: A Life for Our Time, 1988.
  • Editor A Freud Reader, 1989.
  • Reading Freud: Explorations & Entertainments, 1990.
  • Sigmund Freud and Art: His Personal Collection of Antiquities, 1993.
  • The Cultivation of Hatred, 1993.
  • The Naked Heart, 1995.
  • The Enlightenment and the Rise of Modern Paganism revised edition, 1995.
  • Pleasure Wars, 1998.
  • My German Question: Growing Up in Nazi Berlin, 1998 (autobiography).
  • Mozart, 1999.
  • Schnitzler's Century, 2002.
  • Modernism: The Lure of Heresy, 2007.


  1. ^ W.W. Norton Publishers
  2. ^ National Book Foundation Website award winners for 1967
  3. ^ "Q&A with Peter Gay", Boston Globe, By Kate Bolick, November 25, 2007
  4. ^ Prager, D; Telushkin, J. Why the Jews?: The Reason for Antisemitism. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1983. page 129.
  5. ^ "


  • Toews, John "Historicizing Psychoanalysis: Freud in His Time and of Our Time" pages 504-545 from Journal of Modern History, Volume 63, 1991.

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