Wilhelm Schmidt

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Schmidt, Wilhelm


Born Feb. 16, 1868, in Hörde; died Feb. 10,1954, in Fribourg, Switzerland. Austrian ethnologist and linguist; head of the Vienna school of cultural history. Catholic priest.

Schmidt was a professor at the University of Vienna from 1921 to 1938 and became a professor at the University of Fribourg in 1939. He was a specialist in the languages of Southeast Asia, Oceania, and Australia and their comparative study and classification. In his work The Origin of the Idea of God (vols. 1–12, 1912–52), he used his vast ethnological erudition to substantiate the theological theory of primitive divine revelation and the consequent theory of primeval monotheism.

Despite the erroneousness of his main views, the extensive material that Schmidt collected on primitive beliefs and especially on languages has considerable scholarly value. In 1906, Schmidt founded the journal Anthropos; initially containing ethnological reports by missionaries of his order, it later became an international scholarly organ.


Tokarev, S. A. “Venskaia shkola etnografii.” Vestnik istorii mirovoi kul’tury, 1958, no. 3.
Bornemann, F. “Verzeichnis der Schriften von P. V. Schmidt.” Anthropos, vol. 49,1954.
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