Adalbert Kuhn

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Franz Felix Adalbert Kuhn (born November 19, 1812 in Koenigsberg in the Neumark , † May 5, 1881 in Berlin ) was an Indo-Europeanist and mythologist. He is considered the founder of linguistic paleontology and comparative mythology. He was also director of the Köllnisches Gymnasium in Berlin and a member of the Academy of Sciences .


During his student days from 1827 to 1833 at the Joachimsthalschen Gymnasium in Berlin, Kuhn showed an above-average interest in languages ​​and taught himself the basics of Sanskrit in self-study . He later studied philology at the University of Berlin . After receiving his doctorate in 1837, he initially took up a position as a test subject at the Köllnisches Gymnasium in Berlin. In 1841 he became a teacher there. In 1856 he was appointed professor and in 1870 finally director of the institute. In 1872 the Berlin Academy of Sciences accepted him as a member. Since 1863 he was a corresponding member of the Russian Academy of Sciences in Saint Petersburg . He was buried in the St. Petri cemetery in Berlin in 1881 . However, his grave was leveled at the end of the 20th century.


With his research he created the essential foundations for comparative linguistics. In 1845, in On the oldest history of the Indo-European peoples, he developed the foundations of what was later called linguistic paleontology . Kuhn understood it as the attempt to fathom the characteristics of an Indo-European primitive culture based on the reconstruction of Indo-European terms. To this end, he investigated how far terms such as “seed”, “field”, “mowing” or “grain” can be etymologically traced back to a common root. In this way, the earliest emergence of certain cultural concepts such as agriculture can be proven. A common hypothetical basic vocabulary can be created through a broad comparison of the Indo-European languages . According to Kuhn, the elements of this basic vocabulary allow statements to be made about a culture of which no direct written evidence is available. Even though his theses are no longer tenable in this form today, Kuhn nevertheless made a significant contribution to the foundation of Indo-European antiquity .

Another focus of his work was the comparative study of fairy tales, legends and myths. Inspired by Jakob Grimm's German Mythology , published in 1835, he himself began to collect legends and customs and to publish them in several works in the 1840s and 1850s. Later he also turned to non-Germanic sources, especially the Rig Veda . Kuhn summarized the findings of this research in 1859 in his main work The Descent of Fire and the Divine Potion , which today is considered the first comprehensive representation of a comparative mythology.

With his last work on stages of development of myth formation , he finally wrote a methodology of myth research in 1873 . In it he explains the origin of Indo-European myths as a linguistic phenomenon with special consideration of polysemies and homonymies .

The journal for comparative linguistic research he published from 1852 and the subsequent contributions to comparative linguistic research in the field of Aryan, Celtic and Slavic languages are of particular importance . Both periodicals merged in 1875 to form the journal for comparative linguistic research in the field of Indo-European languages , which was continued after his death by his son Ernst .


  • On the oldest history of the Indo-European peoples. In: [Cöllnisches Real-Gymnasium]. Which is the most respectful invitation to the public examination of the pupils of this institution taking place in the Locale of the Real-Gymnasium (Scharrn-Strasse No. 23). 1845, ZDB -ID 1317504-x , pp. 1-18, ( digitized ).
  • As editor: Märkische sagas and fairy tales along with an appendix of customs and superstitions. Reimer, Berlin 1843, ( digitized version ).
  • as editor with Wilhelm Schwartz : North German legends, fairy tales and customs from Meklenburg, Pomerania, the Mark, Saxony, Thuringia, Braunschweig, Hanover, Oldenburg and Westphalia. Brockhaus, Berlin 1843, ( digitized ).
  • as editor: Legends, customs and fairy tales from Westphalia and some others, especially the neighboring areas of northern Germany. Part 1–2 (Part 1: Legends. Part 2: Customs and fairy tales. ). Brockhaus, Leipzig 1859, ( digitized part 1 ; digitized part 2 ).
  • About stages of development in myth-making. In: Treatises of the Royal Prussian Academy of Sciences in Berlin. Philosophical-historical class. 1873, ZDB -ID 955708-8 , pp. 123-151 .


Web links

Wikisource: Adalbert Kuhn  - Sources and full texts

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Foreign members of the Russian Academy of Sciences since 1724. Franz Felix Adalbert Kuhn. Russian Academy of Sciences, accessed September 26, 2015 (Russian).
  2. List of some grave sites in the St.-Petri-Luisenstadt-Kirchhof on, accessed on April 24, 2012