Matthias Alexander Castrén

M. A. Castrén is known as a pioneer of Uralic language research, ethnography and field trips.

As was the trend at the time, the key aim of Castrén’s expeditions focusing on Northwestern, Western and Southern Siberia was to establish proof of the origin of the Finns. In the course of his travels, he collected material on over ten languages that are members of the Uralic and other language families as well as on their speakers.

In the mid-1800s, Castrén was appointed as the first professor of Finnish at the University of Helsinki. The scope of his research and instruction was so extensive that most of the national disciplines (linguistic and folk culture studies) can currently be seen as having been established in Finland in Castrén’s days. Castrén can indeed be regarded as a pioneer in many present-day fields of research. The results of Castrén’s research were published soon after this death in a 12-volume series entitled Nordische Reisen und Forschungen von Dr. M. Alexander Castrén (1853–1862).

– Born on 2 December 1813 in Tervola
– 1830 Matriculation Examination (Oulu)
– 1836 Master of Philosophy (University of Helsinki)
– 1838 expedition to Lapland led by Provincial Medical Officer C. R. Ehrström
– 1839 expedition to Finnish and Russian Karelia
– 1841–‍1842 expedition to Finnish, Norwegian and Russian Lapland and Russian Karelia together with Elias Lönnrot
– 1842–‍1844 Siberian expedition organised by the St Petersburg Academy of Sciences
– 1844 Doctor of Philosophy (University of Helsinki)
– 1845–‍1849 expedition via Kazan to the Samoyeds in Siberia, including the Chinese area
– 1850 married Natalia Tengström (1830–‍1881)
– 1851 Professor of Finnish at the University of Helsinki (first holder of the position)
– Died in Helsinki on 7 May 1852

Liewendal, Frans Oskar, lithography; Löfgren, Erik Johan, original drawing, early 1850s Picture Collections of Finnish Heritage Agency, Historical Picture Collection, Enckell Collection.