Go Back

Karl Ferdinand Ignatius

Karl Emil Ferdinand Ignatius
Born October 27, 1837, Pori. Died September 11, 1909, Helsinki.

Master of Arts (history), 1860, Licentiate of Philosophy, 1862, Doctor of Philosophy, 1864, Imperial Alexander

Assistant to the Head Statistician, 1865–68,  Head Statistician, 1868–75, Director 1875–1885, Central Office of Statistics (–1870 temporary bureau of statistics, –1884 Statistical Office)
Docent, Nordic History and Docent of Finnish Statistics, 1865, Imperial Alexander University

Senator, Head of the Cabinet Committee, 1885–1900, 1905–8
Representative of the Burghers at the Diet, 1877–8, 1882, 1885, 1904–5
Member, Helsinki City Council, 1875–8, 1903–5

Founder Member, Finnish Geographical Society, 1888, Chairman, 1888–9, Honorary Member, 1907
Member, Finnish Society of Science and Letters, 1879
Chairman, Finnish Antiquarian Society, 1877–85
Founder Member, Finnish Historical Society, 1875, Chairman, 1877–8, 1884–5, 1900–1

Italian Cavaliere, 1884
Knight of the Order of St.Vladimir, Fourth Class, 1883, Third Class, 1887
Knight of the Order of St. Anna, Second Class, 1880, First Class, 1897
Knight of the Order of St. Stanislas, Second Class, 1876, First Class, 1892

Photo: National Board of Antiquities / Daniel Nyblin
Written by Tomas Sjöblom
Translated by John Calton

Publishing Statistical Information

Karl Emil Ferdinand Ignatius enrolled at the Imperial Alexander University to study history in 1855. He was particularly fascinated by statistical perspectives, and indeed he forged a long and productive career working with statistics.

Ignatius graduated as a Master of Arts in 1860, and four years later he received his doctorate. His doctoral dissertation dealt with internal conditions in Finland during the reign of Charles X Gustav of Sweden. In his other early studies, Ignatius strove, in particular, to illuminate 17th century Finland through statistics. He was later to write, among others, 10 biographies for Biografinen nimikirja – a biographical encyclopaedia of Finland – and a series of books on the geography of Finland for the general reader, Suomen maantiede kansalaisille I–III -sarjan (1880–1890).

In 1865, just after completing his PhD, Ignatius was appointed assistant to the director of the newly founded Väliaikainen tilastovirasto (‘Temporary office of statistics’), the precursor to Statistics Finland. His first act in that capacity was to compile maritime and foreign trade statistics for Finland for the years 1856–65 on the basis of information from the customs office. This work formed the basis of the first two volumes of Official Statistics of Finland, which were published in 1866.

In 1867, the Senate granted Ignatius a travel bursary, and he journeyed to mainland Europe, where he acquainted himself with national statistical offices and their practices and participated in an international statistics conference in Florence. During his travels Ignatius began to forge international contacts in the field of statistics, which he was later to actively maintain and develop. Indeed, he was already granted membership of the International Statistical Institute at its inaugural meeting in 1885.

After returning from his travels in 1868, Ignatius, then 30 years old, was appointed director of the office of statistics. He immediately began to apply the knowledge and skills acquired on his sojourn abroad in the reorganisation of the office’s activities and goals. In 1870, at the behest of Ignatius, the first official census of Finland’s largest towns was held. In the same year, the first Finnish population statistics booklet was included in Official Statistics of Finland. When the temporary statistics office was made permanent in 1870, Ignatius became the director. Five years later, the scope of the office’s statistical work broadened, and Ignatius’s title was changed to Director General. Ignatius’s central aims in the overhaul of Finnish statistical work were the replacement of words with figures and the compilation of the most important information from various sectors in a single publication. Finland’s first yearbook of statistics was published in 1879.

As the years went by, the office’s workforce and functions grew, but Ignatius nevertheless planned all of its publications, in which he wrote the texts himself, until his resignation in 1885. At that time, Official Statistics of Finland already comprised 8 different sets of statistics. Karl Ferdinand Ignatius had brought modern statistical work to Finland.

The Senate approved K. F. Ignatius’s motion for the compilation of statistical information from different sectors in a single publication in 1879. The same year Finland’s first statistical yearbook appeared. Photo: Suomenmaan tilastollinen vuosikirja (‘The statistical yearbook of Finland’) 1879.


Go Back