Edvard Westermarck
Humanist of the day

Edvard Westermarck

Edvard Westermarck was a pioneering social anthropologist, holding chairs variously in Helsinki, Turku and London. He was rare among his contemporaries in that he was a fully-fledged member of the international scientific community. Moreover, Westermarck was an advocate of nature conservation and a critic of religious practices.

Edvard Westermarck

Edvard Alexander Westermarck
Born November 20, 1862, Helsinki. Died September 3, 1939 Tenhola.

Master of Philosophy, 1886, Licentiate of Philosophy, 1889, Doctor of Philosophy, 1890, Imperial Alexander University

Professor of Philosophy 1918–1932, Rector, 1918–1921, Åbo Akademi
Lecturer in Sociology 1904–1907, Professor 1907–1930, London School of Economics
Docent in Sociology 1890–1906, Professor of Practical Philosophy 1906–1918, Imperial Alexander University

Curator 1890–1895, Inspector 1913–1918, Uusimaa student organization

Honorary Doctorate, University of Uppsala, 1932
Honorary Doctorate (Medical Sciences), University of Glasgow, 1928
Honorary Doctorate, University of Aberdeen, 1912
Commander, 2nd class, Order of the Polar Star, 1925
Commander, 2nd class, Order of the White Rose of Finland, 1919
Cross of Liberty, 1st class, 1918
Order of St Anna, 3rd class, 1911

Westermarck Society founded in 1940

Photo: Wikimedia
Written by Tomas Sjöblom
Translated by John Calton

Edvard Alexander Westermarck was born into a prosperous middle class family in Helsinki on November 20, 1862. Westermarck enrolled in the Imperial Alexander University to read aesthetics, modern literature and general history. He earned a Master’s degree, however, in the field of philosophy in 1886 with his thesis “Does culture make mankind happier?”

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Besides his purely academic merits, Edvard Alexander Westermarck is acknowledged to have been a radical free thinker, certainly for his day. During his studies in Helsinki in the 1880s he was exposed through the student movement to the charged atmosphere of realism, evolutionary theory and a critique of Christian institutions. These ideas were to remain at the core of his life’s work and ideological orientation.

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Edvard Westermarck’s written works:

  • The History of Human Marriage, London 1891 (expanded edition, 1921).
  • Normative und psychologische Ethik, lecture, Münich, 1896. (Fin. Normatiivinen ja psykologinen etiikka, teoksessa S. Knuuttila, J. Manninen & I. Niiniluoto (toim.), Aate ja maailmankuva, Porvoo 1979, 430—435.) (’Normative and psychological ethics’)
  • The Origin and
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Much of the credit for the status of sociology in Finnish universities at the turn of the century could be attributed to Edvard Westermarck. Up until the Second World War, its teaching in Finland was entirely in the hands of Westermarck and his students. In the 1940s, certain of…

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