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Wilhelm Humboldt, Freiherr von

Humboldt, Wilhelm, Freiherr von (vĭlˈhĕlm frĪˈhĕr fən hŏmˈbôlt) [key], 1767–1835, German statesman and philologist; brother of Alexander von Humboldt. As Prussian minister of education (1809–10) he thoroughly reformed the school system, largely on the basis of the ideas of Pestalozzi, and he sent Prussian teachers to study the methods of Pestalozzi's school in Switzerland. He was one of the founders of the Univ. of Berlin. Humboldt was one of the great liberal reformers of Prussia along with Stein and Hardenberg. He remained prominent in the government until 1819, when he retired because of his opposition to the prevailing spirit of reaction. Humboldt was a friend of Goethe and Schiller. His lengthy treatise on Kavi, the ancient language of Java, published posthumously (1836–40), is a work of precision, clarity, and scientific caution.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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