Ursula Lamb, UA historian, dies at 82

By Melanie Klein
Arizona Daily Wildcat
August 21, 1996

Ursula Schaefer Lamb, a UA historian who helped Jews escape death under the Nazi regime, died of cancer Aug. 8. She was 82.

As a college student at the University of Berlin, she helped Jewish families escape the country.

"She played an important role in the 1930s as an anti-Nazi," said Peter Franken, professor of optical sciences and her friend of 45 years.

Lamb and other students were once arrested for disrupting a speech given by a Nazi official.

As punishment, they were sent on a forced march near Pottsdam, said Susan Crane, assistant professor of German history, in a news release.

Franken said, "She put her own life in jeopardy."

Lamb was born in Essen/Ruhr, Germany, in 1914. She came to the United States in 1935 as an exchange student after graduating from the University of Berlin.

She chose to stay in the States rather than return to Germany, which was at the brink of war.

Lamb earned her Ph.D. from the University of Berkeley while studying under the prominent historian, Herbert Bolton.

She was well-known for her distinguished knowledge in the areas of colonial Mexico and the history of exploration and discovery.

"Her global approach to the age of exploration brought all parts of the world into the new scientific development," said Helen Nader, head of the History Department who knew Lamb for over 20 years.

Before coming to the University of Arizona, Lamb taught at Bernard College, Oxford University and Yale.

Franken said, "She was fully and joyously welcomed at the UA as a professor. ... She was a class act, and I will miss her."

Yet, he said, "She had two strikes against her when she started (her career).

"First, she was a woman who wanted to be a historian and scholar in a male-dominated culture. Secondly, she was an immigrant," he said.

Crane said in a news release that Lamb generously mentored her and other women scholars through the often tortuous first few years of academic life.

Lamb retired from teaching in 1984 from the UA with emerita status continuing her research and was an editor for the Hispanic American Historical Review.

In 1995, she published two books about Spanish naval explorers called Cosmographies and Pilots of the Spanish Maritime Empire and The Globe Encircled and the World Revealed.

Lamb is survived by her husband of 57 years, Willis E. Lamb Jr., Nobel physicist and UA professor emeritus.