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Jussi Nuorteva

Jussi Pekka Nuorteva
Born 22 July, 1954, Helsinki.

Master of Theology (Finnish and Scandinavian Church History) 1979, Master of Philosophy (Finnish and Scandinavian Church History) 1983, Licentiate of Philosophy 1986 and Doctor of Theology (Finnish and Scandinavian Church History) 1997, University of Helsinki
Docent, Church History and History of Science, University of Helsinki 1998

Director General of Archives, National Archivist 2003-

Secretary General, Finnish Literary Society, 2000–2003
Secretary General, Research Council for Culture and Society, Academy of Finland, 1998–2000
Science journalist, Finnish  Broadcasting Company, 1994–1998
Editor-in-chief, University of Helsinki Library’s National Bibliography of Finland 1991–1993
Assistant, Church History, University of Helsinki, 1989–1994 (leave of absence 1991–1993)
Research Assistant, Academy of Finland 1984–1989
Project Researcher, Academy of Finland 1879–1984

Research interests: Church history and history of science, history of early manuscripts, university 'practice masters', prison systems, history of administration, diplomatic history, states of emergency

Written by Jussi Nuorteva and Riitta-Ilona Hurmerinta (ed.)
Translated by John Calton

A memorable moment in the University of Helsinki

It was a sticky day in late May 2000 and I was waiting for the Faculty of Theology’s (doctoral) Congregation ceremony. Three years earlier I had defended my thesis on Finns’ studies abroad before the establishment of the Academy at Turku in 1640, and my study had been rated in the highest class. As such, I was the so-called primus doctor leading the procession and it was my ceremonial duty to answer the following question concerning my excellence: “Did the establishment of the Royal Academy in 1640 raise academic standards in Finland?” It was a question that required a reasoned argument but in the end it came down to a simple yes or no. Without a doubt the audience was expecting me to expatiate on the University’s huge significance for seventeenth-century social improvement, and of course an answer in the affirmative.

Unfortunately my research clearly demonstrated the establishment of the Academy at Turku did not advance science in Finland. The number of students increased considerably, but somewhat concomitantly the number of those studying abroad fell dramatically. Ever since the Middle Ages scholarship had been sought from the most prestigious European centres of learning – Paris, Louvain, Rome, Prague, Wittenberg and Rostock. The University in Åbo/Turku, formed out of the Cathedral School, with its initial library collection of a princely 21 volumes, was hardly in a position to offer a decent scientific foundation for anything. In Turku it was possible to learn how to mimick, in an average sort of way, European learning, but cutting-edge science remained out of reach. In short, quantity was no substitute for quality. Prior to the eighteenth century therefore, the Academy of Turku’s significance in terms of international scholarship was indeed practically nil. I recall how, after arguing my case, I answered the ceremonial question with a clear ‘no, the establishment of the university at Turku did not lead to the advancement of science in Finland.’ As I made my way back to my seat, a hush filled the room.

Meanwhile, Professor Simo Heinonen, who had proffered the ‘innocent’ question, met my commentary with a courteous ‘I accept your response.’



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