Rudolf Schlesinger

Rudolf Schlesinger

Rudolf Schlesinger (1909-November 10 1996) was a German-born American legal scholar known for his contributions to the study of comparative law, a discipline that examines the differences and similarities among the legal systems of nations. His arrival in the field during the early 1950s helped to give it both greater legitimacy and popularity in legal academia. His book "Comparative Law: Cases, Texts, Materials" (1950), written while Schlesinger taught at Cornell University, became a staple of law school curricula and entered its fifth edition in the late 1990s. He also wrote important studies of civil procedure and international business transactions and directed a ten-year international research project on contracts.

Schlesinger was the son of a lawyer and a relative of bankers. He was born in Munich, Bavaria, Germany, in 1909. As he was growing up, he exhibited especial intellectual abilities, but also a great interest for sports and art. He completed his doctoral thesis on commercial law, earning his degree in law from the University of Munich in 1933. He then worked as a lawyer for the bank that years before had been founded by his predecessors. He developed a background in finance while also helping German Jews transfer their assets out of the country in order to escape Nazi persecution.

In 1938, with the Nazi party gaining strength, Schlesinger, who was Jewish, emigrated to the United States. Soon, he enrolled in the Columbia Law School, where he became the first, and perhaps the only, non native English speaking editor of the Columbia Law Review. He graduated first in his class in 1942 and started working as an assistant to a New York Supreme Court judge. He briefly worked at a large New York City financial law firm; however, in 1948 he moved into academia and started teaching in the Cornell Law School, where he later became a professor of comparative law. In 1975 he left, as Professor Emeritus, and became a professor in the University of California's Hastings College of the Law, until his retirement in 1995. Schlesinger and his wife, Ruth Hirschland Schlesinger, both died on November 10, 1996, in San Francisco, California.

Schlesinger had an enormous impact on U.S. and European legal studies. Foremost was his pioneering 1950 book on comparative law, "Comparative Law: Cases, Text, Materials", which ultimately influenced two generations of readers. In 1955, working on behalf of the New York Law Revision Commission, he examined the important question of whether to codify commercial law. His study, "Problems of Codification of Commercial Law" (1955), anticipated the subsequent development of the Uniform Commercial Code. In 1995 the American Journal of Comparative Law published a tribute to Schlesinger that praised the brilliance of his "heroic work" and noted that its influence went beyond U.S. law: "Today's serious efforts to find and develop a unitary European private law is, consciously or unconsciously, a continuation of Schlesinger's effort."


* Moustaira Elina N., "Milestones in the Course of Comparative Law: Thesis and Antithesis (in Greek)", Ant. N. Sakkoulas Publishers, Athens, 2003, ISBN 960-15-1097-4
* [ Obituary]

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