Heiko A. Oberman was a scholar of the Reformation, the Renaissance, and the late Middle Ages. During his long academic and scholarly career he published many books and articles, but he is best known for his acclaimed biography of Martin Luther, entitled “Luther: Man Between God and the Devil”, published in English by Yale University Press in 1989, and originally published in German in 1982.
Oberman was born in the city of Utrecht, the Netherlands on October 15, 1930. He remained close to home for his university studies and earned both his undergraduate degree and doctoral degree, cum laude, in historical theology from the University of Utrecht in 1957. Oberman had clearly made an impact in his field of study during his graduate student career, and was offered an academic position as an instructor by Harvard University’s Divinity School. He also became an ordained minister during that time. It is not clear in which denomination, or whether his ordination took place in the Netherlands, or after he arrived in the United States.
Oberman was quickly promoted to an assistant professorship, and in 1963 he was promoted to a full Harvard professorship in Church History. A year later, in 1964, he was named to a chaired Harvard professorship, named the Winn Professorship of Ecclesiastical History. He remained in that position for two years. Opportunity knocked when the University of Tubingen, in Germany, offered him a chaired professorship in Church History on the Protestant Theological Faculty, and the directorship of the Institute for Late Middle Ages and Reformation. So in 1966, Oberman not only moved himself and his family to a new University, but also to a new country, Germany.
Oberman remained at the University of Tubingen for 18 years, and his research and the Institute for Late Middle Ages and Reformation he headed, attracted scholars in Reformation studies from many countries. It was also during this time period that Oberman would write his groundbreaking biography on Martin Luther.
In the early 1980’s, Oberman’s wife, Geertruida, was suffering from a crippling arthritis condition which was aggravated by Germany’s damp and cool climate. So the Oberman’s started to look into a possible move to a university located in a more arthritis-friendly climate. It so worked out that the University of Arizona in Tucson, Arizona, offered Oberman a professorship in History in 1984, which he accepted. While at Arizona, Oberman founded the Division for Late Medieval and Reformation Studies, and became the Regent’s Professor of Medieval, Renaissance and Reformation History. He would remain at Arizona for the remainder of his academic career. The Division he founded trained a new generation of scholars, and all of them won Fulbright and other major international fellowships. Also all of them were able to obtain academic positions in an extremely competitive academic market.
Oberman’s major book publications are: “The Dawn of the Reformation”, ”Forerunners of the Reformation”, “The Impact of the Reformation”, “The Reformation: Roots and Ramifications”, “The Two Reformations”, “The Roots of Anti-Semitism in the Age of Renaissance and Reformation”, “Masters of the Reformation”, and “The Harvest of Medieval Theology”. The above listing does not include his books in German and Dutch, although most of these were probably translated and re-issued in the English language.
During his academic career Professor Oberman was honored in many ways. He was made a Fellow of the Medieval Academy of America, a Corresponding Fellow of the British Academy, and a Correspondent of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences. He was elected a member of the American Philosophical Society, America’s oldest learned society. He was also the winner of the prestigious Dr. A. H. Heineken Prize for History.
Several universities honored Professor Oberman by granting him honorary doctorate degrees. He received honorary doctorate degrees from Harvard University, the University of St. Louis, the University of Aberdeen, Scotland, and Valparaiso University in Indiana. During the final months of his life, it was announced that a distinction for extraordinary representation of Dutch scholarship and culture would be conferred on Heiko Oberman by Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands in April 2002, the year following his death.
Heiko Oberman married Geertruida Reesink in 1956, prior to his departure from Utrecht, the Netherlands to Harvard University. The couple had two sons, Gerrit-Willem Oberman and Raoul Oberman, and two daughters, Ida Oberman and Hester Oberman, and seven grandchildren.
Heiko Oberman had been afflicted with Melanoma cancer and passed away on April 22, 2001 in Tucson, Arizona. In his will, Oberman provided that his personal research library would pass to the University of Arizona upon the successful endowment of a Chaired Professorship in Late Medieval Studies and Reformation. His remains are interred at the Holten Cemetery in Holton, the Netherlands.
Heiko Oberman, Expert on the Reformation Dies at 70, http://dlmrs.web.arizona.edu/Oberman,article2.html
Save the Oberman Research Library and Endow a Chair, http://web.arizona.edu/~dlmrs/Chair.html
Heiko Oberman, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heiko_Oberman
E-BOOKS AVAILABLE FROM AMAZON; GOOGLE: Kindle Store Pegels
PROMINENT DUTCH AMERICANS, CURRENT AND HISTORIC
EIGHT PROMINENT DUTCH AMERICAN FAMILIES: THE ROOSEVELTS, VANDERBILTS AND OTHERS, 2015
FIFTEEN PROMINENT DUTCH AMERICAN FAMILIES: THE VAN BURENS, KOCH BROTHERS, VOORHEES AND OTHERS, 2015
PROMINENT DUTCH AMERICANS IN U.S. GOVERNMENT LEADERSHIP POSITIONS, 2015
DUTCH PEGELS INVOLVED IN WARS
ALLIED EUROPE CAMPAIGN—1944/1945: TACTICAL MISTAKES, 2017
THE SECOND WORLD WAR IN THE NETHERLANDS: MEMOIRS, 2017
FRENCH REVOLUTION, NAPOLEON AND RUSSIAN WAR OF 1812, 2015