Short Portrait: Franz Termer

Franz Termer
Franz Termer

* 5.7.1894 in Berlin + 15.4.1968

Franz Termer was born in Berlin in 1894. After finishing school he took up his studies in Berlin in 1913, where the americanist Eduard Seler was among his teachers.

Since 1919, Termer continued his studies not only in Marburg but also in Würzburg, where the geographer Karl Sapper was among his teachers. In 1920 he graduated and eventually took up an assistant position at the Institute of Geography and Geology in Würzburg, which was chaired by Sapper.

In 1923 Termer completed his habilitation thesis and began lecturing at the Institute of Geography and Geology in Würzburg. Moreover, he did his first long-term research trip to Central America between 1925 and 1929, mainly to Guatemala . After his return he was announced associated professor at the Julius-Maximilians-University in Würzburg.

In 1935 Termer was appointed head chairman of the Ethnological Museum in Hamburg, where he worked until his retirement in 1962. He also became chairman of the German Anthropologists Association (Deutsche Gesellschaft für Völkerkunde, DGV) in 1936. He participated at the first meeting of German anthropologists after WW II (Frankfurt/Main, 19.-21.09.1946). Furthermore, he did further research trips to Central America throughout the following decades, for example in 1938/39, 1954/55 and 1957/58.

Moreover, Termer held a professorship at the University of Hamburg, where he lectured on Anthropology and Ancient American Studies at the Institute of Social and Cultural Anthropology. Ulla Johansen, Hans Becher, Wolfgang Haberland, Thomas S. Barthel and Günter Zimmermann were among his students.

Franz Termer not only published a number of basic works on Central America but was a major figure of the so called "Hamburg School", an expert group for Ancient America. While his regional interest mainly focussed on Mexico and Guatemala he also did continuous research on Maya culture and language.

Franz Termer died in Hamburg in 1968.

(Text written by Vincenz Kokot in January 2012, based on BAA by Prof. Riese; photography by courtesy of Ulla Johansen)