Short Portrait: Georg Thilenius

Georg Thilenius
Georg Thilenius

Georg Thilenius was born on Oct 4th, 1868 in Soden am Taunus. Between 1888 and 1893 he studied Natural Sciences and Medicine not only in Bonn but also in Berlin.

After completing his studies and graduating Thilenius began to work on his habilitation thesis which he completed in Strasbourg in 1896. Eventually he began lecturing at the university.

Throughout the following years Thilenius did several journeys and research trips leading him not only to Hawaii and Samoa but also to New Zealand and the Salomon Islands.

In 1900 Thilenius took up a professorship for Anthropology and Ethnology at the university in Breslau (now: Wroclaw, Poland). Four years later he became the first chairman of the newly founded Ethnological Museum in Hamburg.

Throughout the following years Thilenius was responsible for the ongoing extension of the museum and its increasing reputation. Both in 1912 and 1929 new buildings and exhibition spaces became part of the museum. Thilenius also coordinated several expeditions to the South Pacific between 1908 and 1911. More than 15.000 objects were brought to Hamburg and documented until 1938.

Moreover, Thilenius became member of the newly founded Colonial Institute (Kolonialinstitut) in Hamburg, which he chaired between 1908 and 1910. He also began lecturing at this institution, which was the predecessor of the Hamburg University. When the University was founded in 1923, Thilenius became head of the Chair for Anthropology. He retired in 1935.

Georg Thilenius died in Hamburg in Dec 28th, 1937.

(Text written by Vincenz Kokot in January 2012, based on BAA Prof. Riese; photography by courtesy of Museum für Völkerkunde/Hamburg)