Yrjö Hirn
Humanist of the day

Yrjö Hirn

Yrjö Hirn was professor of Aesthetics and Modern Literature at the University from 1910 to 1937. His wide-ranging academic work covered aesthetics, literature, cultural history and theatre studies. During research trips abroad he gathered material and forged relations with influential figures in academic and cultural life beyond Finland. In his work for various committees and organisations beyond the University, he demonstrated a strong commitment to serving Finnish society at large.

Yrjö Hirn

Born 7 December, 1870, Lappeenranta. Died 23 February, 1952, Helsinki.

Master of Arts 1892 and Licentiate of Philosophy 1896, Imperial Alexander University

Professor of Aesthetics and Contemporary Literature 1910-37, University of Helsinki
Amanuensis 1894-1910, Library of Imperial Alexander University

Member of the Prometheus Society 1905-1914
Finnish delegate to the Paris Peace Conference 1919

White Rose of Finland, 2nd class, 1919
White Rose of Finland, 1st class, 1926
French Legion d’honneur, 1920
French Officier de l’Instruction publique, 1922
French l'ordre national de la Légion d'honneur, 1926
Honorary Doctor of Philosophy, University of Oslo, 1939
Swedish Academy, Gold medal, 1940

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

It is claimed that Yrjö Hirn was, in his day, one of the most famous Finnish men of letters in the world. His scholarly career began in aesthetics, where he introduced the ideas of the sociologist Edvard Westermarck to fellow aestheticians. Hirn made a great many research trips around Europe and established particularly strong contacts within the English universities.

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During his time at the University Yrjö Hirn was a firm advocate of extramural education. He was a member of many committees, learned societies and organisations and was on the board of the Otava publishing house for many years. His most important assignment was to take part, as a member of the Finnish delegation, in the Versailles Peace Conference in 1919.

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