Werner Söderhjelm
Humanist of the day

Werner Söderhjelm

Werner Söderhjelm is not really remembered as a literary historian or linguist, although he was both of these. He set up the Neuphilologischer Verein, the Modern Language Association, and its prestigious journal, the Neuphilologischer Mitteilungen, is just one indication of how he underpinned both teaching and research in Romance and Germanic languages at the University. Having held down a series of professorial posts, Söderhjelm went on to run the information office in Copenhagen and served as Finnish Ambassador to Sweden.

Werner Söderhjelm

Jarl Werner Söderhjelm
Born 26 July, 1859, Viipuri. Died 16 January, 1931, Helsinki.

Master of Arts 1882, Licentiate of Philosophy and Doctor of Philosophy 1885, Imperial Alexander University
Docent of Modern Literature 1886-1889 and Docent of Romance Philology 18891894, Imperial Alexander University

Professor extraordinarius of Romance Philology 1894–1898
Professor of Germanic and Romance Philology 1908–1913 and Professor of Finnish and Comparative Literature 1913–1919, Imperial Alexander University

Director of the Finnish Information office in Copenhagen 1917–1919
Finnish Ambassador to Sweden 1919–1930

Founder of the Modern Language Society-Neuphilologischer Verein 1887, chairman 1890–1902, honorary chairman 1902
Vice-chairman, Alliance Française 1899
Inspector, Academic orchestra 1900–1903
Inspector, Savo-karelian student ’nation’ 1905
Inspector, Karelian student ‘nation’ 1905–1919

Member, Finnish Society of Science and Letters 1905
University representative for the clergy at the Finnish Diet of 1905–1906
Member, central administration of the Nuorsuomalainen Party 1906–1907

Photo: Museovirasto
Written by Riitta-Ilona Hurmerinta
Translated by John Calton

Werner Söderhjelm was from a prosperous family of officials and merchants in Viipuri. His upbringing brought him into contact with many languages, such as Finnish, Swedish, Russian and German. Showing interest in literature at an early age, Söderhjelm would later become a literary historian. In his dissertation, he examined 18th century comedic German literature from a historical perspective. He graduated with a PhD from the Imperial Alexander University in Finland in 1885.

Read more