Porthan, Henrik Gabriel
Born in Viitasaari, Tavastland, in 1739, Porthan died in Turku in 1804. He was a professor and rector at the Royal Academy of Turku. As a scholar he sometimes is entitled as The Father of Finnish History.
His father was a vicar who became mentally ill in 1744. He was raised by his uncle Gustaf Juslenius (1702-1774) who was the vicar of Kronoby in the county of Ostrobothnia. In 1754, at the age of 15, Porthan entered the Academy of Turku. He was a student of professor Daniel Juslenius (1676–1752) who later served at Bishop of the Diocese of Borgå.
Porthan was awarded his Master of Philosophy in 1760. He was a professor 1777–1804 and served as rector 1786–1787 and 1798–1799. He brought Finnish history-writing, study of mythology and folk poetry to an international level. His De Poësi Fennica (published in five parts 1776-78), a study on Finnish folk poetry, had great importance in awakening public interest in the Kalevala-poetry and Finnish mythology, and the study was also the basis of all later study of the poetry.
He was among the founders of the Aurora Society that advocated Finnish literary pursuits and was the editor of the first Finnish newspaper, Tidningar ugifne af et sällskap i Åbo, founded in 1771. He instructed Kristian Erik Lencqvist (1761–1808) whose 1782 dissertation De superstitione veterum Fennorum theoretica et practica was a seminal study of historic Finnish customs.
Porthan was also the instructor of poet Frans Michael Franzén (1772–1847) and also inspired the following generation of Finnish authors, poets and researchers, many of whom were among the founders of the Finnish Literature Society in 1831.