Schmidt, Wilhelm

Schmidt, Wilhelm,

1868–1954, German linguist and anthropologist, a Roman Catholic priest. Educated at the universities of Berlin and Vienna, he entered the Society of the Divine Word in 1890. Residing mainly in Austria, he taught at the Univ. of Vienna, founded and directed an anthropological institute at Mödling, and, after 1938, was a professor at the Univ. of Freiburg. Schmidt devoted particular attention to the languages of S Asia, Australia, and Oceania. His books available in English translation are The Origin and Growth of Religion (1931), High Gods in North America (1933), The Culture Historical Method of Ethnology (1939), and Primitive Revelation (1939).
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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

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.
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.