Lillian Rosanoff Lieber and Hugh Gray Lieber

This husband and wife team of a mathematician (Lillian) and illustrator (Hugh) influenced many generations of mathematically inclined readers, who stumbled on one of the Lieber books in their youth and were intrigued by their style of explaining complicated mathematics in simple language. Three of the most popular were The Einstein Theory of Relativity (1936 and later editions), Infinity (1953) and The Education of T C Mits (The Celebrated Man In The Street) (1942 and later editions).

In my case I found her book explaining general relativity in the public library of the small village of Florida in rural New York State where I grew up  when I was in 9th grade (?) in the mid sixties and was fascinated by the concepts that were still beyond my abilities to comprehend. Eventually I found my way into theoretical physics and general relativity as a profession. I still remember how impressed I was by "tensors" and thought I would really be accomplished when I understood them. More recently my friend David sent me a copy of The Education of TC Mits which I happily read and was pleasantly surprised at the timeless message it contains about relying on reasoning to understand how the world works, politically as well.

Lillian (1886-1986) and two of her illustrious brothers (chemist Martin Andre Rosanoff and psychiatrist Aaron Joshua Rosanoff, California's director of institutions, 1939-1942) were among the four children of Clara and Abraham Rosenberg. Lillian headed the math department at Long Island University and the Galois Institute of Mathematics and Art in Brooklyn, N.Y., retiring in the 1950s and outliving all who might have known about her [not true, there was at least a niece who carried on the family line as the daughter of another brother Joseph]. She died in obscurity at 99. Today in 2003 there is no trace of the Galois Institute on the web other than as the publisher of some math/science books in the first half of the twentieth century (Galois Institute Press), and there are few known archival materials anywhere on Lillian. Her university does not seem to acknowledge her part in their history.

The last lines of Lillian's preface to the collected works of her chemist brother Martin Andre Rosanoff published by her Galois Institute reveal a bit of the strong emotions that must have fueled her mission of encouraging ordinary people to think more rationally about the world. The Liebers were a remarkable couple who actually tried to do something to influence ordinary people into considering using their own minds and some logical thinking to interpret the world instead of blindly following religious or political or patriotic dogma, something the general public so sorely needs these days.


If you know of any materials on the Liebers or were yourself influenced by one of their books when you were young or would like to see any of her books republished, please respond to the email links on the following page:

As an example of reader response to these books, the reader reviews at Amazon.com are helpful:

Cavendish Press has a full page about her style and mentions her relativity book:

Some other random references:

The Library of Congress links require a login and expire after a session timeout. Here are the books listed under 2 of the 3 listings for Lieber, L:

This is not all of their books and our web list here is also missing one, according to reader feedback:

Nearly all the Lieber and Lieber books can be found used at http://www.abebooks.com, and http://www.bookfinder.com. (The latter usually includes the former in its searches.)


This website was established in 2003 when a web search drew a certain Mr E to bob's web page reference to the Liebers. Mr E was doing a study on two of Lillian's brothers, and contributed the web page asking for people to contact him with their anecdotes about the influence of these books on their own lives. However, unfortunately his obsession with remaining anonymous to the public world caused him to shut down his then current email contact address in December 2005 and cease all communication with bob and david (both Princeton physics alumni, class of 1974) who were left to read and respond to the email now arriving sporadically from many others like ourselves who felt touched by the Liebers' work. Our attempts to interest publishers in republishing some of these books were stalled for some time by the orphaned copyright issue.  [We are in contact with a grand nephew and grand niece, but the copyright somehow apparently left the family before Lillian's death.]

However, independently of us, Paul Dry Books in Philadelphia took an interest and somehow managed to deal with the copyright issues. Thank you Paul! Three books are now available. Please support this small publisher by ordering one of them.

8-mar-2010: robert jantzen