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Oiva Tuulio

Oiva Johannes Tuulio (Tallgren –1933)
Born January 17, 1878, Pyhäjärvi. Died June 21, 1941, Helsinki

Master of Arts 1901, Licentiate and PhD 1907, Imperial Alexander University
Study visits to Paris 1901–02 and Southern Europe 1903–04, 1907–08, 1926 and 1931

Professor extraordinary of Southern Romance languages 1928–41, University of Helsinki
Amanuensis at the Department of History and Language Sciences 1920–34, University of Helsinki
Acting professor of Romance philology 1913–14, Imperial Alexander University
Docent in Southern Romance languages, 1910, Imperial Alexander University
Latin teacher 1906–07, acting principal 1909–10, French teacher 1910–11, Helsinki Normal Lyceum

Board member of the Finnish Oriental Society 1933–35 and vice-chairman 1935–41
Chairman of the Satakuntalainen student nation 1931–34
Auxiliary member of the Finnish Academy of Science and Letters 1910 and member 1925

Romania’s Medal of Cultural Merit
France’s Officier de l’Instruction publique (Golden Palms) 1926
Officer of the Order of the Crown of Italy 1929, Commander 1938

Photo: Helsingin yliopistomuseo
Written by Tomas Sjöblom
Translated by Matthew Billington

Populariser of Spanish culture

The son of the vicar of Maaria, Oiva Johannes Tallgren, later to change his name to the more Finnish Tuulio, enrolled at the Imperial Alexander University to study Classical and modern languages in 1896. Tuulio was particularly interested in Southern Romance languages, and was later to become the leading Finnish authority in this area.

Tuulio completed his bachelor’s degree in 1901, after which he continued his studies under the guidance of leading Hispanists, first in Paris and then in Madrid. He completed his PhD in 1907 with the doctoral dissertation Estudios sobre la Gaya de Segovia: capítulos de introducción á una edición crítica. Tuulio was forced to seek special permission for a dissertation written in Spanish, and the defence of his thesis was in fact conducted in French. The work examines the rhyming dictionary, written in 1475, of the oldest representative of Spanish lexicography, Pero Guillén de Segovia.

Tuulio began his career in 1906 as a Latin teacher at the Helsinki Normal Lyceum. Nevertheless, immediately after graduating he embarked, at the instigation of his teachers Werner Söderhjelm and Axel Wallensköld, on a study visit to Italy, where he became interested in mediaeval Sicilian school poetry. Tuulio was named a docent at the University of Helsinki in 1910.

In 1917, Tuulio married one of his students, Tyyni Haapanen, who like her husband was fascinated by Spanish and Italian literature and who later became known for her translations and biographies.

Oiva Tuulio (then still Tallgren) devoted his critical edition of Rinalso d’Aquino’s poetry to his fiancée Tyyni Haapanen.

In 1920, Tuulio was named amanuensis of the Department of History and Language Sciences at the University of Helsinki, and in the 1920s he was one of the first to arrange practical Spanish courses at the University. He was to wait for a professorship until 1928, when at the age of 50 he was named professor extraordinary of Southern Romance languages.

Tuulio had been interested in astronomy since his school days, and he was able to combine his old interest with philology when publishing studies on the likes of 13th century Spanish astronomy. Moreover, Tuulio, like many Hispanists of the day, was fluent in Arabic, and he studied, among others, the geographic work known as the Tabula Rogeriana, by the Moroccan-born geographer Al-Idrisi, which also dealt with the Nordic countries, including Finland.

Tuulio strongly believed in popularising science and learning, and he published popular works on numerous topics. He was the first to begin the work of making Spanish culture and literature known to a wider audience. Tuulio published, among others, travelogues of his visits to Spain and a history of Spanish literature. In addition, he worked in numerous academic societies and associations that promoted Romance countries and languages. Cultural events of many kinds were often arranged at the Tuulios’ home, and as chairman of the Satakunta student nation he also participated in the cultural education of his students outside the lecture theatre. One of Tuulio’s fascinations was the poetry of Ibn Quzman, which contained words in Spanish. Tuulio completed his critical edition of Ibn Quzman’s poems in 1941, when he was already seriously ill. Tuulio died the same year, and shortly after a eulogy to him was given by Professor Arthur Långfors at a meeting of the Academy of Finland.

Tyyni and Oiva Tuulio’s engagement photograph. Photo: SKS, Kirjallisuusarkisto

Sources and additional information:

  • H. K. Riikonen, Tuulio, Oiva, National Biography web publication. Accessed 18 September 2015. Available for free on the Nelli portal. Luettavissa maksutta Nelli-portaalin kautta.
  • T. Riiho (project leader), Iberian monet kielet, web publication of the Department of Modern Languages. Accessed 18 September 2015.
  • Tuulio, Oiva Johannes, Helsingin yliopiston opettaja- ja virkamiesmatrikkeli (‘teacher and officer register of the University of Helsinki’) 1640–1917, web publication. Accessed 18 September 2015
  • O. J. Tuulio, Wikipedia. Accessed 18 September, 2015
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