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In Remembrance

Gert Harald Mueller: In Memorium

By Joseph R. Pearce (PhD ‘84) and Jurg K. Siegenthaler, Professor Emeritus, American University

Gert Harald Mueller, Professor Emeritus of Sociology at American University, died at the age of 89 on October 23, 2011, in Washington, D.C. 

Mueller was born in Dresden, Germany, on July 20, 1922. After WWII, he was admitted to the Freie Universität of West Berlin. He received his PhD from the University of Munich in 1954. The title of his dissertation was “The Structure of Pure Dialectics.” He subsequently returned to Berlin to pass his first state examination, which entitled him to teach history, philosophy, and French in the German gymnasia system, where he taught from 1954 to 1962. After spending several years as a private scholar, he accepted a position as assistant professor at the University of Pittsburgh, where he taught sociology from 1968 to 1972. 

In 1973, he became an assistant professor at American University, where he advanced to full professor and taught sociology until his retirement in 1991. As an emeritus professor, he remained active in pursuing his research and writing on sociological theory up to the time of his death. 

Mueller’s work in analytical sociological theory was the fruit of more than 50 years of scholarly research. His work in theory was the product of a painstaking curiosity leading to exhaustive studies in religion, philosophy, history, and sociology. The body of Mueller’s work bears witness to a lifelong passion for uncompromising scholarship and intellectual craftsmanship in the pursuit of sociology as a rigorous science. 

He was a scholar in the classical mold whose breadth of knowledge reflected a singular dedication to thinkers who came before him, theorists like Aristotle, Comte, Hegel, Marx, Weber, Husserl, and Wittgenstein. He argued that reality (physical, biological, social, moral, and cultural) could be conceived most fruitfully as forming a hierarchy of founding and controlling relationships that condition social reality rather than determine it. Mueller tested the hierarchical relationships posited in his theory by applying the tools of mathematical logic and, more specifically, the “foundational truth function,” which he constructed to map and test the relationships between what he called “emergent and dominant superstructures.” 

Mueller left a substantial body of original work in analytical sociological theory, much of which remains unpublished. A selection of these manuscripts can be found on the American University Department of Sociology website ( He published more than 75 journal articles and one book, Sociology and Ontology: The Analytical Foundations of Sociological Theory (1989). 

Last year, the department established the Sociology Legacy Fund to honor the contributions to a sociological community—within and outside our institution—of our past faculty including Dr. Mueller. Please visit the following website to find out more about the fund and how to make a donation ( sociology-legacy-fund.cfm). 

Mueller is survived by his first cousin, Solveig Woelfel of Frankfurt, Germany. In his trust he wrote, “I have no children, living or deceased. My friends have been family to me.” He will be greatly missed by his students and those who knew and loved him.