Norman Golb

Norman Golb
Ludwig Rosenberger Professor of Jewish History and Civilization Emeritus
Taught at Chicago 1963-2015

Academic Bio

Norman Golb, born in Chicago in 1928, received his earlier education there and, in 1954, his Ph.D. degree in Judaic and Semitic studies from Johns Hopkins University ( Baltimore).

During his student years he held several fellowships, including the Cyrus Adler Post-Doctoral Research Fellowship at Dropsie College (Philadelphia) and the Warburg Fellowship for Research in Judaic and Semitic Studies at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem (1955-57). Since then he has been a visiting faculty member at the University of Wisconsin (1957-58), Harvard University (1966), and Tel Aviv University (1969-70). From 1958 until 1963 he was a faculty member of the Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, joining the faculty of the University of Chicago in July of the latter year.

Dr. Golb has received research awards from the American Philosophical Society, the American Council of Learned Societies and the Littauer Foundation. He was a Guggenheim Fellow in 1964, in this capacity conducting research at various European libraries. A second Guggenheim Fellowship was awarded to him in 1966. In 1970 he was awarded a research grant by the National Endowment for the Humanities. He has spent many academic seasons working on the Cairo Genizah documents of Cambridge University Library. He was a research associate of the American School of Oriental Research in Jerusalem in 1969-70, and in 1970 was elected to a visiting fellowship at Clare Hall ( Cambridge University), of which he is now a life member.

His discoveries include the identification of Obadiah the Proselyte as the author of the oldest Hebrew musical manuscript (12th century); the recovery of a Genizah document describing a prominent European convert to Judaism of the beginning of the 11th century; the uncovering of the earliest extant legal record of the Jews of Sicily, and of an autograph manuscript of Khazarian Jews of Kiev; the identification of a Hebrew document dealing with the First Crusade; and the discovery of various manuscripts pertaining to the Jews of medieval Normandy. His studies have appeared in many scholarly journals both here and abroad. He is the author of Spertus College of Judaica Yemenite Manuscripts, describing a large group of Hebrew and Judaeo-Arabic texts now located in Chicago. His Hebrew work Toledot hayehudim be'ir rouen bimé habenayim (History and Culture of the Jews of Medieval Rouen) was published in Israel in the spring of 1976 (Dvir Publishing House, Tel Aviv); this has been followed by numerous studies interpreting archaeological discoveries made in the summer of 1976 and in 1982 in the Street of the Jews at Rouen. A book by Jacques Klein of Paris describing Golb’s discoveries on the Jews of Normandy appeared in France in 2006.

In 1980 he published a study formulating the hypothesis that the Dead Sea Scrolls originated not with a sect living near the Dead Sea, but with the Jews of Jerusalem; and in 1982 a book (jointly with Prof. O. Pritsak of Harvard) entitled Khazarian Hebrew Documents of the Tenth Century (Cornell University Press).

In 1985, upon publication of his book, Les Juifs de Rouen au Moyen Age, Dr. Golb was awarded the Grand Medal of the City of Rouen. In 1987 he was granted the degree Docteur Honoris Causa (Histoire) by the University of Rouen, and was awarded the Medal of the Region of Haute Normandie. In 1988 he was named by the University of Chicago as the first holder of the Ludwig Rosenberger Professorship in Jewish History and Civilization. In 2006 he was granted a Cittadinanza onorario per meriti scientificiâ by the commune of Oppido Lucano ( Basilicata) for his reasearches on Obadiah the Proselyte (11 th/12 th Cent.) and related topics.

In the early nineties Dr. Golb took a leading role in the freeing of the Dead Sea Scrolls for study by the scholarly community, and in organizing an international congress on the scrolls under the auspices of the New York Academy of Sciences and the Oriental Institute. His Who Wrote the Dead Sea Scrolls?The Search for the Secret of Qumran was published by Scribner in January, 1995 and by Michael O’Mara in England in 1996, and has since appeared in several languages. His work entitled The Jews of Medieval Normandy - A Social and Intellectual History, was published by Cambridge University Press in April, 1998..