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Georg Gimpl

Born May 26, 1949 Abtenau (Austria). Died October 10, 2014, Linz (Austria)

Master of Arts 1975 (Germanic philology, pedagogics), PhD 1980 (Germanic philology and psychology), University of Salzburg (Austria)

University lecturer 2004–2014, University of Helsinki
Acting associate professor 1993–1995, University of Helsinki
Docent in the history of science and ideas, University of Oulu
Lecturer in German language and Austrian literature 1975–2003 (permanent appointment 1981), University of Helsinki

Research themes:
The history of philosophy, particularly the history of Austrian philosophy; Austrian and German literature; the cultural history of Bohemia’s German speaking (including Jewish) population; the virtual museum of Russbach, his home village


Kuva: Hartmut Lenk
Written by Hartmut Lenk, Marja Ursin, Valtteri Hyvärinen, Jouni Heikkinen, Helena Leheckova, Susanne Frejborg, Kaarle Holmberg, Faruk Abu-Chacra, Ove Knekt, Mark Shackleton, John Calton, Liisa Tiittula, Andrew Chesterman, Anni Aarinen (Kaija Hartikainen, ed.)
Translated by  Matthew Billington

In Memoriam

Georg Gimpl, Doctor of Philosophy and university lecturer, was born on May 26, 1949 in Abtenau, Austria. After primary school, he studied at the private gymnasium Erzbischöf­liches Privatgymnasium Borromäum in Salzburg and completed his matriculation examination at the prestigious upper-secondary school Akademisches Gymnasium Salzburg. He completed his Master’s degree in 1975 at the University of Salzburg, majoring in German philology and minoring in philosophy, psychology and pedagogy. This was followed in 1980 by a PhD in German philology and psychology. His dissertation on the principal work of Ludwig Wittgenstein’s early career was titled Form als Dementi. Text- und Strukturanalyse des Tractatus logico-philsophicus’.

Georg Gimpl in August 2009 in Salzburg, where he completed his university studies.

Georg Gimpl’s entire academic career was spent at the University of Helsinki. From 1975 he worked as lecturer in German language and Austrian literature at the Department of German, and later in German philology at the Department of Modern Languages. Since 2004 his official title was University Lecturer. Between 1993 and 1995 he was acting associate professor of German philology. In July 1991 he was appointed docent in the history of science and ideas at the University of Oulu.

As a university lecturer, one of Georg Gimpl’s particular responsibilities was the teaching of literary science, where he played a central role. In December 1989, the student organisation Umlaut awarded him an unofficial certificate of honour which read “the most courageous person of the year, lecturer Georg Gimpl.” Austrian and German literature were particularly close to Gimpl’s heart. His study programme also included language courses and lecture courses on Austria.

In addition to German literature, Gimpl’s research interests included the history of philosophy, particularly in its Austrian form. Gimpl later returned to the topic of his doctoral dissertation, Ludwig Wittgenstein. He studied, among other things, the thinking and influence of Eduard Winter, Franz Brentano and Bernhard Bolzano. Gimpl was also interested in the relationship between Wilhelm Bolin and Friedrich Jodl, on which he published his own study. He also wrote on Berta Fanta’s literary salon in Prague. The history of German language culture in Bohemia (including Jewish) was a source of great fascination for Gimpl. In his last years he directed all his efforts towards establishing the virtual museum of his hometown of Russbach.

Georg Gimpl deftly employed rhetoric in his writing, both on the history of German philology and on higher education policy. His pointed, polemic style did not always receive unreserved acceptance. Thanks to the brilliance of his dialectic reasoning and the unwavering consistency of his arguments, he was, however, able to cultivate a reputation both among his colleagues and in international circles as a razor-sharp thinker. He was anything but blindly devoted to authority. Gimpl had an enormous pool of knowledge on the history of philosophy, literature and society: because of his profound learnedness he was a popular conversationalist, lecturer and book critic as well as a respected academic.

As a teacher, Georg Gimpl set high standards both for himself and his students. He was passionate about inspiring an interest in literature in gifted students. Students treasured his teaching, with many considering it a truly eye-opening experience. As a university teacher, Gimpl patiently and consistently helped his students achieve the highest possible standard in their theses. Students could always rely on his aid and expert advice.

The respect Gimpl had for his students was reflected in the painstaking meticulousness that characterised his relationship with academic teaching. He was a regular attendant of various events organised by student associations. At these gatherings he was known as a joyful, positive and broad-minded person, a view that was shared by those who knew him best.

A spring sojourn to Suomenlinna, together with colleagues Helena Leheckova (on the left), Andrew Chesterman and Mark Shackleton. Photo by John Calton.

Gimpl had wide social networks both in Helsinki, where he resided, and within international research communities. His circle of friends included interesting people from a variety of backgrounds. An important characteristic of Georg Gimpl was solidarity: he was compassionate towards those who were less fortunate, and he championed the rights of the weak. Pomposity and showing-off were concepts completely alien to him.

The sudden passing of Georg Gimpl on October 10, 2014, was an enormous loss to his family. It also left a great void in the discipline of German philology at the University of Helsinki, and he is sorely missed by his colleagues both as a person and as a fellow worker.

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