Short Portrait: Heymann Steinthal

Heymann Steinthal
Heymann Steinthal

Heymann Steinthal was born in Gröbnitz, Saxony-Anhalt, in 1823. There he spent his childhood and youth.

Steinthal studied Philology and Philosophy at the Friedrich-Wilhelms-University (now: Humboldt University) in Berlin. During his studies Steinthal was strongly influenced by the writings of Wilhelm von Humboldt, whose linguistic work he published from 1884 onward.

Steinthal graduated in 1847 and completed his habilitation thesis on Humboldt and Hegel in 1849. He began lecturing at the Friedrich-Wilhelms-University the following year. Between 1852 and 1855/56 he lived in Paris and intensely studied the Chinese language. He also studied African languages in London.

After his return to Germany, Steinthal continued lecturing at the Friedrich-Wilhelms-University again, where he took up a professorship in 1863. Moreover, Steinthal was on of the founding members of the Berlin Society of Anthropology, Ethnology and Early History (Berliner Gesellschaft für Anthropologie, Ethnologie und Urgeschichte, BGAEU) in 1869.

From 1872 onward Steinthal also lectured on the Philosophy of Religion at the College of Jewish Studies in Berlin. Moreover, he was co-publisher (along with Moritz Lazarus) of the anthropological journal »Zeitschrift für Völkerpsychologie undo Sprachwissenschaft« since 1860, being highly influential for the theory on racial psychology.

Heymann Steinthal died in Berlin in 1899.

(Text written by Vincenz Kokot in July 2012, based on the Scientific Collection of the Humboldt-University and German and English articles at; photo source:

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