Protestant scholar in the science of religion; b. Chemnïtz, Germany, Jan. 25, 1898; d. Orselina, Switzerland, Aug. 27, 1955. On being relieved of his professor-ship in the history of religion at the University of Leipzig in 1935 by the Nazi government, he came to the United States and served as a professor in his field at Brown University (1935–45), and then at the University of Chicago (1945 to his death). He taught courses in the history of religion, but he was especially recognized for his work in the sociology of religion. In the latter field he was distinguished for his profound knowledge, unusual breadth of view, and effective use of an empirical–humanistic method. His major works were Religionswissenschaft: Prolegomena zu ihrer wissenschaftstheoretischen Grundlegung (Leipzig 1924), Das Verstehen. Grundzüge einer Geschichte der hermeneutischen Theorie im 19. Jahrhundert (3 v., Tübingen 1926–33), Sociology of Religion (Chicago 1944), Types of Religious Experience (Chicago 1951), and Comparative Study of Religions (New York 1958).
Bibliography: f. heller et al., "Mémorial Joachim Wach," Archives de sociologie des religions (1956) 19–69, with complete bibliog. of Wach's publications 64–69.