Zachris Castrén
Humanist of the day

Zachris Castrén

The public educator and liberal thinker Zachris Castrén studied ethics and the philosophy of religion at the University of Helsinki at the end of the 19th century. As chairman of the student union, Castrén wrote for both the newspaper Päivälehti and the periodical Valvoja. He is remembered at the University as a popular teacher and colleague. Elected as an MP from the ranks of the Young Finnish Party in the 1909 Elections, the remainder of Castrén’s career was spent as the director of the Finnish Adult Education Institute in Helsinki. Dubbed the soul of the adult education movement, Castrén strived to provide it with a firm academic foundation.

Zachris Castrén

Zachris Castrén
Born December 12, 1868, Oulu. Died January 31, 1938, Helsinki

Master of Arts 1891, PhD 1899 (philosophy of religion, ethics), honorary professorship 1928, University of Helsinki

Curator of the Pohjalainen student nation 1899–1904
Curator of the Pohjois-Pohjalainen student nation 1907–08
Chairman of the student union 1899–1903
President of the Finnish Youth League 1899–1909
Docent in practical philosophy (philosophy of religion) 1903
Acting editorial secretary of Valvoja 1893–94, editor-in-chief 1906–08, 1914–19
Director of the Helsinki Adult Education Institute and its Finnish language division 1914–38
Founding member of the Young Finnish Party, member of the party’s central committee 1906–13 and member of parliament 1909
Member of the central committee of the Finnish National Progressive Party and chairman of its programme committee 1925–26
Vice-chairman of the Federation of Municipal Officers 1919, Chairman 1920–36
Vice-chairman of the Intellectual Employment Union 1922–34

Picture: Portrait in the Opistotalo building of the Helsinki Adult Education Institute / artist Kaapo Wirtanen 1938
Written by Olli Siitonen
Translated by Matthew Billington

Zachris Castrén was born in Oulu to a wealthy and influential family of merchants. He studied ethics and the philosophy of religion at the University of Helsinki and continued his studies at several European universities. Castrén was an active student, and he was elected chairman of the Student Union at…

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