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Johann Kaspar Zeuss

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Born at Vogtendorf, in Upper Franconia, 22 July, 1806; d. there, 10 Nov., 1856. He was the founder of Celtic philology, an eminent philologist, and studied at the gymnasium of Bamberg. His parents wished that he should enter the priesthood, but the young man chose the scholarly career, inclining particularly to historic and linguistic study. He entered the University of Munich and after finishing his studies, taught there at the gymnasium. In 1837 appeared his book "Die Herkunft der Baiern von den Markomannen" (2nd ed., 1857), which brought him the honorary degree of Ph.D. from the University of Erlangen. The same year he went to Speyer to teach history at the lyceum and remained there until 1847, when he accepted a professorship of history in the University of Munich. But this he resigned on account of his poor health and was transferred to the lyceum in Bamberg. In 1853 appeared his monumental "Grammatica Celtica", which established his fame. Two years later he took a leave of absence to recover his health, but he died the following year.

Zeuss was a scholar of tremendous erudition, combining a knowledge of philology with that of history and ethnology. His Germanic studies had taught him the necessity of a knowledge of the Celtic languages and so he went to work to investigate this neglected field. To get at the sources, the old manuscripts, particularly those in Old Irish, he journeyed to Karlsruhe, Wurtzburg, St. Gall, Milan, London, and Oxford, and everywhere made excerpts or copies. Not only the ancient, but also the modern, dialects received his attention. As a result appeared the great "Grammatica Celtica", which proved beyond doubt that the Celtic languages were a group of the Indo-European family and which put Celtic philology on a sound scientific basis. After the author's death the work was revised and re-edited by Hermann Ebel (Berlin, 1871). It is even today of fundamental importance to all Celtic scholars. Other works of Zeuss are the "Traditiones possessionesque Wirzenburgenses" (Speyer, 1842), and "Die Freie Reichstadt Speyer vor ihrer Zerstorung".


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