Rainer Knapas
Humanist of the day

Rainer Knapas

Rainer Knapas is a historian, a critical upholder of tradition, an academic teacher and a director. He seeks to combine knowledge, art and culture as a means to understanding – for himself and others. For Knapas, advancing academic knowledge in research and in practice, together with students and colleagues, is of importance. Knapas spends the bulk of his spare time reading and writing.

Rainer Knapas

Born February 19, 1946, Pyhtää.

Master of Arts (Art History), 1970, Licentiate of Philosophy, 1981, University of Helsinki

Research Assistant,  Finnish National Board of Antiquities, 1965–1977
Assistant, 1977–1990, Department of History, University of Helsinki
Independent scholar, then with the University of Helsinki, Society for Swedish Literature in Finland, 1998–2007
Project Leader (History of the National Library project), 2008–2012, National Library of Finland/University of Helsinki

Columnist, Ny tid periodical, 1999-

Research interests
Architectural and cultural history, history of the University and library, history of horticulture, scholarly editions (of works by J. V. Snellman, Z. Topelius etc.)

Awards and honours
State Award for Public Information, 1997, 2001
Svenska litteratursällskapet-Swedish Literature Society’s Prize for Gustaf III foundation’s commemorative fund, 2004
60th anniversary February 19, 2006: I trädgården, i biblioteket, i världen (‘In the garden, in the library, in the world’, ed. Nina Edgren-Henrichson et al.)
Swedish Academy’s  Finlandspris, 2007
Honorary Doctorate, University of Helsinki, 2010
Tollanderska prize, 2013

Photo: Schilts & Söderströms / Janne Rentola
Written by Rainer Knapas (Tomas Sjöblom, ed.)
Translated by John Calton

The most important topic for my research and teaching is intimately connected to the variety of subjects that I studied in the 1960s. The chairs bore rather solemn titles: professor of Art History, professor of Aesthetics and Modern Literature, professor of Economic and Social History, professor of Fenno-Ugric Ethnology, professor of Finnish and Nordic Archaeology, and others in similar vein.

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The University is Helsinki’s powerhouse of scholarship for the humanities. It is such a self-evident and multiply-networked part of the capital that I am only now, after 50 years of studies and research, beginning to understand it properly.

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Particular, but at the same time great, moments come to my mind from my time at the University: assistants as high priests of the faculty examinations, writing our 'maturity' examinations in the large lecture hall in the University’s main building. This happened a few times per academic year, following carefully crafted rotas.

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