Ursula Lamb

Ursula Schaefer Lamb (born, Essen Germany 15 January 1914, died, Tucson AZ 8 August 1996) was a distinguished Latin American historian, who published works on the age of exploration and the history of science.[1][2][3] She was a pioneering woman academic in Latin American history, whose interdisciplinary works on history of science and globalization antedate the boom in such studies.

Life and academic careerEdit

Lamb was born just before the outbreak of World War I in Germany and came of age in the interwar years. She attended the University of Berlin (1933–35), during Hitler's early years in power, studying history of art.[4] While a student there she aided Jewish families to escape from Nazi Germany. She was openly anti-Nazi, and was arrested protesting a Nazi official's speech. In 1935 she was able to come to the U.S., with aid from Quakers, as an exchange student at Smith College. Lamb entered the graduate program at University of California, Berkeley, studying with Herbert E. Bolton. She earned her M.A. in 1939 and her Ph.D. in 1949. Due to prejudices against women in the era, Lamb was "prevented from pursuing her first choices in an academic career." But her difficulties in the U.S. were compounded by her being designated an "enemy alien." Despite her 1939 marriage to a U.S. citizen, distinguished physicist Willis Lamb, who later won a Nobel prize, she could not live within 50 miles of the coast.[5] She completed her dissertation on Nicolás de Ovando in 1949.

She taught at Barnard College (1943–51), Brasenose College, Oxford University (1959–60), Yale University (1961-1974), and then University of Arizona (1974–84), where she retired in 1984. It was not until she was at University of Arizona did she hold a tenured professorial position.[6]

In 1990, she was recognized by the Conference on Latin American History Distinguished Service Award, its highest honor. She was the first woman to receive it. The Hispanic American Historical Review took the unusual action of publishing two obituaries of her in the year following her death, with the editor noting that the journal “is pleased to offer its readers another look into the life of a pioneer among women in the field of Latin American history.”[7] She died of cancer in 1996, survived by her husband of 57 years, whom she married in 1939. An obituary notes that she did not consider herself a feminist, but “she recognized the need for female scholars to be treated as equals.” In her personal life she made a commitment “as a supportive wife to nurture another’s genius.” [8]




  1. ^ Martin Torodash, "Ursula Lamb (1914-1996)". The Hispanic American Historical Review, vol. 77, No. 2 (May 1997), pp. 281-282.
  2. ^ Susan M. Deeds and Donna J. Guy, "Ursula Lamb (1914-1996)". The Hispanic American Historical Review, vol. 77, No. 4 (Nov. 1997), pp. 677-679
  3. ^ http://wc.arizona.edu/papers/90/1/16_1_m.html Archived 2015-04-05 at Archive.today accessed 5 July 2016.
  4. ^ Deeds and Guy, "Ursula Lamb", p. 677.
  5. ^ Deeds and Guy, "Ursula Lamb", pp. 677-78.
  6. ^ Deeds and Guy, “Ursula Lamb”, p. 678.
  7. ^ Editor’s note, HAHR, vol. 77, No. 4 (Nov. 1997), p. 677.
  8. ^ Deeds and Guy, “Ursula Lamb” p. 679.
  9. ^ http://clah.h-net.org/?page_id=188