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Tuomas Heikkilä

Tuomas Mikael Heikkilä
Born January 26, 1972, Helsinki

Master of Arts 1996, Licentiate 1997, and PhD 2002 (general history), University of Helsinki
European Diploma in Medieval Studies 1997 (Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana)

Docent in general history 2003–, University of Helsinki
Docent in general history and church history 2006–, University of Helsinki
Docent in Finnish history 2013–, University of Turku
Director, Finnish Institute in Rome (Villa Lante), Rome
University lecturer of general history and church history 2003, 2005–07, 2010–13, University of Helsinki
Principle investigator of the Studia Stemmatologica­ research network 2009–12
Principle investigator of the Kirjallinen kulttuuri keskiajan Suomessa (‘Literary culture in medieval Finland’) research project 2006–11
Visiting Research Fellow, Swedish Collegium for Advanced Study, Uppsala 2010
Professor of general history 2004 and 2008–09, University of Helsinki
Commissioner 2001–07, Institutum Romanum Finlandiae Foundation
Research fellow 2007, Academy of Finland
Senior research associate in European history 2004 and research associate 1999–2003, University of Helsinki
Researcher 1998–2001, Diplomatarium Fennicum, National Archives of Finland
Researcher of general history, 1997–98, University of Helsinki

Publications, research projects and other academic activity

Research themes: monasteries in the High Middle Ages, the cult of saints in the medieval period, literary culture in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, computer-assisted stemmatology, digital humanities, the period from late Antiquity until the Renaissance.

Awards and special achievements:
Luminous Middle Ages Prize 2012, awarded by the Society for Medieval Studies in Finland
Head Marshal of the conferment ceremony of the Faculty of Philosophy, University of Helsinki, 2010
Lauri Jäntti Foundation honorary award 2010
Winner of the Vuoden kristillinen kirja (‘Christian book of the year’) prize (together with Liisa Suvikumpu) 2009
Invited to reside in the University of Helsinki’s apartment Tiedemies-kunniakoti (‘Honorary scholarly home’) 2006
Finnish Science Book of the Year prize 2005
The Yrjö Koskinen medal 2006
Vuoden historiateos (annual prize for the best work of history) 2005
Finnish Academy of Science and Letters scholarship for an outstanding doctoral dissertation 2003
Doctor Primus 2003
Snellman Foundation prize for an outstanding master’s thesis 1997

Written by Tuomas Heikkilä (Riitta-Ilona Hurmerinta, ed.)
Translated by Matthew Billington

Darwin, fruit flies and medieval texts

From 2005, Tuomas Heikkilä and Associate Professor of Computer Science Teemu Roos have led a research group to develop new computer-assisted tools tailored for the needs of humanities scholars.

It all began while Dr Heikkilä was researching the origins of the legend of St Henry. There were so many medieval variations of this, the oldest of the roots of Finnish national literature, that they could have formed the basis for more genealogies of the distribution of the text than there are atoms in the universe. The fruit of the collaboration between Heikkilä and Roos was a method, now used around the world, which leans, on the one hand, on techniques from the field of evolutionary biology and packing algorithms familiar to every computer-user and, on the other, on an interpretation, once again, of original medieval source material.

Between 2009 and 2012, Dr Heikkilä led the Studia Stemmatologia network. The project, which was funded by the Finnish Cultural Foundation, brought together around 40 top scholars from a dozen scientific disciplines and from over 10 countries and five continents. The aim was to solve problems in stemmatology, textual development and genealogy pertaining to disciplines like historical research, theology and literary studies.

As a result of this collaboration, it was possible to answer many perennial questions, and many new multidisciplinary research fields edged further forward than they had done for several decades. Today, the network has increasingly shifted its emphasis to include the research of areas outside the stemmatology of literary culture: music, orally transmitted stories and calendars.

Photo: Tuomas Heikkilä’s archive


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