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Wolmar Schildt

Reformer of the Finnish language

"The character of the inland people is unhurried, though in a way strong and clever. "

Wolmar Schildt was born in Laukaa on the 31st of July 1810. He was an officer’s son and a nobleman. The Schildt family spoke Swedish at home, but – having been born and grown up in a Finnish-speaking region – Wolmar mastered Finnish at a young age.

Schildt graduated as a Master of Science in 1833 and as a Doctor of Medical Science in 1840. He worked as a district physician in Saarijärvi and Jyväskylä for fifty years, until his eventual retirement from this position.

Schildt was a Fennoman who strongly contributed to the development of the Finnish language. It has been said that, in the second half of the 19th century, not a single significant initiative was launched in Jyväskylä without his contribution.

Schildt played a role in the founding of the first Finnish-speaking secondary school, the current Jyväskylän Lyseo (Jyväskylä Lyceum). He was also the first to present the idea of establishing a Finnish-speaking university in Jyväskylä.

Schildt was involved in a variety of ventures: he founded a savings bank and a newspaper, and also bought a printing house. Furthermore, he is known as the journalist who wrote under the pseudonym W. Kilpinen. He published a number of articles about the status of the Finnish language and its enrichment with neologisms. Many of the words introduced by him are commonly used even today, for example: tiede (science), taide (art), and yleisö (audience).

Schildt’s endeavours contributed a great deal to his student association friend Uno Cygnaeus being able to found a teacher training college precisely in Jyväskylä.

Another of Schildt’s legacies was a new version of the Finnish orthography (‘venykekirjoitus’). Unlike his other initiatives, this reform did not ultimately gain popularity. Nevertheless, Schildt himself continued to use this form of orthography, in which the circumflex on a single vowel is used to indicate a long vowel, instead of marking two consecutive vowels.

Wolmar Schildt died in Jyväskylä on the 8th of May 1893. His own orthography was used in his obituary, as well as in his headstone inscription in the Old Cemetery of Jyväskylä.

Sources:

Fredrikson, E., Wolmar Schildt - Suomalaisuuden edistäjä. Keski-Suomen museon monistesarja / Museum of Central Finland handout series 1/1984 Jyväskylä.

Audejev-Ojanen Pirkko, Venytysmerkkilöt - Wolmar Schildtin omat kirjaimet, Jyväskylä University Library newsletter Verkkomakasiini 21.12.2006 https://jyx.jyu.fi/

Wolmar Schildt: tieteen ja taiteen isä. Toimittanut Mauno Jokipii. Jyväskylä 1993.

The heartbeat of Finnish education - Cygnaeus and Schildt 200 years © 2010 City of Jyväskylä & University of Jyväskylä