Otto K. Kaufmann was born in Zurich on 28 February 1914 as the eldest son of the lawyer Dr Josef Kaufmann.
After graduating from literary grammar school in Zurich, he completed an internship at the Swiss National Bank in Geneva. In 1933, Kaufmann began his law studies at the University of Zurich, during which he also spent a semester abroad in Rome. Six years later he published his dissertation entitled Die Haftungsverhältnisse in der schweizerischen G.m.b.H (The liability situation at Swiss limited companies).
After his studies, Kaufmann worked for one year as an auditor and substitute at the district court of Uster, ZH. After passing the bar exam, he worked as a lawyer in the law firm of Stadler and Dombrowski, also in Uster. In 1945 he published his habilitation thesis on Das neue ländliche Bodenrecht in der Schweiz (The new rural land law in Switzerland) and in the same year Kaufmann took up a position of Privatdozent (lecturer) at HSG.
In 1947, Kaufmann travelled to the USA and studied for two years at Georgetown University and Yale Law School to earn his Master of Law (LL.M.). For a short time, he worked in a law firm in Washington before returning to Zurich to continue his legal practice.
In 1951, Otto K. Kaufmann married the medical doctor Carola Antonia Rübsam, with whom he later had four children.
In 1952, Kaufmann was appointed Titular Professor at HSG and three years later Full Professor of Business Law, Tax Law, and General Administrative Law. At the same time, he served in the capacity of academic and career advisor. Between 1963 and 1966 he held the office of President of HSG. Kaufmann worked energetically on the conception of the new study re-form and on the school’s further development, as a healthy further development and consol-idation of the academic reputation of HSG were of immense importance to Kaufmann. His service as President was characterised by high ethical standards and extraordinary commit-ment. What Kaufmann considered most important, were the issues and concerns of HSG students.
In 1965, Kaufmann was nominated Federal Supreme Court Judge by the Christian Democratic People’s Party (today: ‘Die Mitte’). Therefore, in 1966, after only one term as the president of HSG after just having been awarded Honorary Professor, he moved to Lausanne to serve at the Federal Supreme Court, where he served as federal judge until his retirement in 1984. In 1983 and 1984 he served as President of the Federal Supreme Court.
Kaufmann was affectionately referred to as OKK by the students. He reported several times as a Federal Supreme Court correspondent in the student magazine prisma about his every-day professional life and Federal Supreme Court decisions.
Kaufmann was considered a sought-after expert at national and international level in the fields of Swiss nuclear law, economic war provision and agricultural law. He was a member of the expert commission on the partial revision of the Federal Constitution and served for 12 years (1954-1966) as President of the Swiss Butter Supply Agency (BUTYRA). Kaufmann was also a member of the St. Gallen Court of Cassation.
He died on 24 March 1999 in Pully (VD).
1963: Sociological Seminar (SfS-HSG).
1964: Institute for European and International Economic and Social Law (EUR-HSG), most recently Institute for European, Economic and Comparative Law (EUR-HSG) (closed 2014)
1964: Research Centre for Economic Geography, most recently Research Centre for Econom-ic Geography and Spatial Planning Policy (FWR-HSG) (closed 2008)