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The Immanuel Velikovsky case remains one of the greatest scandals of 20th-century science. Ostracized and vilified for challenging the scientific consensus of a “steady state” earth, Velikovsky pointed to ancient literature, including the Bible, to buttress his argument that extraordinary catastrophes had befallen the globe during ancient human history. In the 1960s, his scientific reputation began to be rehabilitated by the early space probes and new geological and archaeological evidence.

Dr. Ruth Velikovsky Sharon has recently published Immanuel Velikovsky – The Truth Behind the Torment (2003), a book of correspondence to and from her father, and from scientists who wrote to his publishers. Previously, Dr. Sharon published Aba - The Glory and the Torment – The Life of Dr. Immanuel Velikovsky(McGraw Hill, 1995).





The papers of Russian-born American scientist and author Dr. Immanuel Velikovsky have a new home in the Princeton University Library. His daughter, Ruth Sharon of Princeton, has donated the papers for use by researchers.

Velikovsky, who lived from 1895 to 1979, is best known as the author of a number of controversial books, primarily arguing that ancient myths, legends and accounts of catastrophic events related in the Bible and other texts have a basis in fact.

Velikovsky earned his M.D. degree from the University of Moscow in 1921 and lived in the 1920s and '30s with his family in Palestine, where he pursued a specialization in psychoanalysis and psychotherapy. He moved to the United States in 1939 and began his research on the history of Egypt, Greece and the Jewish past. He lived first in New York City and later in Princeton.

Velikovsky is the author of "Worlds in Collision" (1950), "Ages in Chaos" (1952), "Earth in Upheaval" (1955), "Oedipus and Akhnaton" (1960), "Ramses II and His Time" (1978), "Peoples of the Sea" (1977) and other controversial studies of ancient Egypt, Greece and Biblical history.

"Decades of bitter debate resulted from his controversial theories about cosmological catastrophes, particularly in regard to the planet Venus, and his interpretation of historical, geological and paleontological evidence," said Don Skemer, curator of manuscripts in the library's Department of Rare Books and Special Collections.

Harlow Shapley, Cecilia Payne-Gaposchkin, Carl Sagan and other members of the American scientific establishment were among Velikovsky's critics. The controversies over Velikovsky and publication of his work have been the subject of several books, including Alfred De Grazia's "The Velikovsky Affair: The Warfare of Science and Scientism" (1966) and Donald Goldsmith's "Scientists Confront Velikovsky" (1977).

The Immanuel Velikovsky Papers comprise 156 boxes of published and unpublished manuscripts and drafts, subject files, lectures, personal and professional correspondence, and legal documents dating from the 1920s to the 1990s. The collection includes his extensive correspondence with Horace Kallen, Ted Thackrey and other friends, as well as selected letters from Albert Einstein, Helen Dukas, Sigmund Freud, Carl Jung, Eugen Bleuler, Chaim Weitzmann, Harold Urey and other scientists and academicians.

His papers also contain extensive correspondence with publishers and readers. Among Velikovsky's manuscripts are selected typescript essays annotated by Einstein, which later became chapters in Velikovsky’s posthumously published book, "Stargazers and Gravediggers: Memoirs to Worlds in Collision" (1983).

The Immanuel Velikovsky Papers are available for research use in the library's manuscripts division in the Department of Rare Books and Special Collections. An online description of the papers is available. For more information about the papers, contact Skemer



Reprinted from the Princeton University Library Main Catalogue


Velikovsky, Immanuel, Dr., 1895-1979

Dr. Immanuel Velikovsky papers,

1920-1996 (bulk 1930-1979)

Electronic Access:
Finding aid

65 linear ft. (152 archival boxes, 2 oversize flat boxes, 2 document boxes)


Series: 1. Writings: A. Published Works, B. Unpublished Material, C. Miscellaneous Writings; 2. Lectures; 3. Albert Einstein and Sigmund Freud; 4. Correspondence: A. Personal, B. Professional, C. Publishers, D. Radio and Television, E. Critics, F. Readers; 5. Personal and Family Records and Legal Documents; 6. Photographs; 7. Works of Others; 8. Printed Material; 9. Microfilms; 10. Film reels.

Restrictions Note:
Access to box no. 68, which contains original letters from Albert Einstein and Sigmund Freud, is restricted. Permission of the Curator of Manuscripts is required for use of this original material; readers can use Xerox copies. Access to the magnetic tapes is also restricted until further notice.

Biographical/Historical Note:
Dr. Immanuel Velikovsky, a Russian-born American scientist, is best known as the author of a number of controversial books, primarily arguing that ancient myths, legends, and accounts of catastrophic events related in the Bible and other texts are based on fact. Using his findings, he proposed a revised chronology of Ancient Egypt, synchronizing it with the history of Ancient Israel. His idea were widly criticized and rejected by scientists, physicists, Egyptologists, and others in the academic field. Velikovsky was born in Sosoniki, near Vitebsk (present day Belarus), in Russia, on June 10, 1895. He studied medicine at the University of Montpelier in France, at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland, and received his M.D. degree from the University of Moscow in 1921. Between the years 1921 and 1923 he took different post graduate courses in Berlin. While in Berlin Velikovsky edited the journal, Scripta Universitatis, for which Albert Einstein prepared the mathematical-physical section. Velikovsky’s work on the Scripta ultimately led to the birth of Hebrew University in Jerusalem. It was also in Berlin that he met the violinist Elisheva Kramer, and they got married in 1923. In 1928 he started his specialization in psychoanalysis and psychotherapy, and in 1939 Velikovsky and his family moved to the United States and settled in New York City, where he conducted his research at Columbia University. They later moved to Princeton, New Jersey, where Velikovsky got re-acquainted with Albert Einstein. His books and articles were translated and published in many different languages, and he appeared on various radio and television shows, both in the United States and all over the world. Because of his controversial ideas, for nearly a decade prior to the early sixties, he was persona non grata on many college and university campuses. However, when early probes sent to Venus, Mars, and Jupiter confirmed some of his predictions, he began to receive more requests to speak. He lectured, frequently to record crowds, at universities across North America. Velikovsky died at his home in Princeton on November 17, 1979, at the age of 84.

Summary Note:
Consists primarily of manuscript material, correspondence, and printed material, documenting how Velikovsky came to his controversial conclusions, and the history of opposition and criticism that followed the publication of his first book, WORLDS IN COLLISION, in 1950, by Macmillan & Co. The book suggests that around the 15th century B.C., a comet (now the planet Venus) separated from Jupiter, and passed near Earth, changing its orbit and axis and causing innumerable catastrophes. Fifty two years later, it passed close by again, stopping the Earth’s rotation, and causing more catastrophes. These events had a profound effect on the lives and beliefs of mankind. After reaching the number one spot on the best-sellers list, WORLDS IN COLLISION was banned from several academic institutions, who also threatened to boycott Macmillan’s textbook department, thus creating an unprecedented scientific debacle that became known as "The Velikovsky Affair." Ultimately, the publication of the book was transferred to Doubleday & Co., and a few individuals lost their jobs for believing in Velikovsky’s ideas, namely, Samuel Putnam who was working at Macmillan, and Gordon Atwater who was curator of the Hayden Planetarium and chairman of the Department of Astronomy at the Museum of Natural History in New York City.

The collection includes a lifetime of writings, lectures, photographs, and correspondence spanning more than 50 years. The correspondence was from Velikovsky’s supporters as well as his critics, and from various publishers all over the world. Opposition came primarily from Dr. Harlow Shapley and Dr. Cecilia Gaposchkin, both of Harvard University, and later from Carl Sagan, also of Harvard University. The collection contains a large number of photographs of planets, taken by NASA, as well as photographs of ancient Egyptian monuments and artifacts, all of which Velikovsky used to re-inforce his conclusions. Included also, is correspondence between Velikovsky and Albert Einstein, and between Velikovsky and Sigmund Freud, and drafts of some section headings from his book STARGAZERS AND GRAVEDIGGERS which Velikovsky gave to Einstein to read, and which Einstein annotated with his comments and remarks.

Printed books were transferred to the Division of Rare Books.

Rights & Reproductions Note:
Copyrights and literary rights for all material are retained by the donor. No more than 250 exposures/copies in total will be permitted either to any individual researcher, or for any particular purpose such as the publication of Velikovsky’s works and correspondence, either in print or on a website. No further photo duplication of copies of material in the collection can be made when Princeton University Library does not own the original. Permission to publish material from the collection must be requested from the Associate University Librarian for Rare Books and Special Collections.

Source of Acquisition:
Gift of Dr. Ruth Velikovsky Sharon, in two installments: June 16, 2004, and Sept. 9, 2005. AM 2004-92; 2005-22.

Cumulative index/Finding Aid:
A finding aid is available.

Einstein, Albert, 1879-1955 --Correspondence.
Freud, Sigmund, 1856-1939 --Correspondence.
Gaposchkin, Cecilia Helena Payne, 1900- --Correspondence.
Sagan, Carl, 1934- --Correspondence.
Shapley, Harlow, 1885-1972 --Correspondence.
Doubleday and Company, inc.
Macmillan & Co.
Asteroids--Collisions with Earth.
Authors and publishers.
Authors and readers.
Catastrophes (Geology).
Comets--Collisions with Earth.
Cosmology, Ancient.
Extinction (Biology).
History, Ancient.
Natural disasters.
Publishers and publishing.
Religion--Controversial literature.
Egypt--History, Ancient.

Magnetic tapes.

Related Name(s):
Sharon, Ruth Velikovsky, donor.

Rare Books: Manuscripts Collection (MSS)

Call Number:

* Reprinted from the Princeton University Library Main Catalogue

Email Contact:

Photography provided by Mark Czajkowski

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