Jean van Heijenoort was born in Creil, France, on July 13, 1912. He was educated at the Lycée St. Louis in Paris. From 1932 to 1939, he served as Leon Trotsky's personal secretary. Van Heijenoort left Trotsky in 1939 and came to the United States, where his interests turned to mathematical logic. He received his Ph.D. from New York University in 1949, and taught in the New York University Mathematics Department until 1965, when he moved to the Department of Philosophy and the History of Ideas at Brandeis University, becoming Professor Emeritus in 1977. He died in Mexico City on March 28, 1986.
Van Heijenoort is best-known for his work in the history of logic; he was the editor of From Frege to Gödel: A Source Book in Mathematical Logic, 1879-1931 (1967). He was also the author of several non-historical works in mathematical logic. Some of this work appeared in his Selected Essays (1985), but most remains unpublished. His experiences with Trotsky are recounted in his With Trotsky in Exile: From Prinkipo to Coyoacán (1978).
From the guide to the Jean Van Heijenoort Papers, 1946-1988, (Archives of American Mathematics, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, The University of Texas at Austin)