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Corssen, Wilhelm Paul

, a great classical philologist, was born at Bremen January 20th, 1820. From 1839 to 1843 he studied philology at Berlin, where he published (1844) Origines Poesis Romanae. He then taught for two years in Stettin, and in 1846 became an adjunct, and, later, full professor at Pforta. In 1866, he resigned the post and lived at Lichterfelde, near Berlin, devoting himself exclusively to his studies until his death in 1875. His chief works are: Ueber Aussprache, Vokalismus, und Betonung der lateinischen Sprache, 2 vols. (Leipzig, 1858-59; 2d ed. 1868-70); Kritische Beiträge zur lateinischen Formenlehre (Leipzig, 1863); Kritische Nachträge zur lateinischen Formenlehre (Leipzig, 1866); Beiträge zur italischen Sprachkunde (Leipzig, 1876); besides a number of treatises on old Italian dialects in Kuhn's Zeitschrift für vergleichende Sprachforschung; the treatise De Volscorum Lingua (Leipzig, 1858); and Ueber die Sprache der Etrusker (2 vols. Leipzig, 1874-75). Among the results of his stay at Pforta was Alterthümer und Kunstdenkmäler des Cistercienser Klosters St. Marien und der Landesschule Pforta (Halle, 1868).

Dr. Corssen's great work is his Aussprache, than which no more memorable publication in the field of Latin scholarship has ever appeared. Its massing of facts is a monument of scholarly research; while the acuteness of criticism, and the mastery of detail shown in the use to which the facts are put, rank Corssen with the greatest scholars of all time. Not equally successful was his attempt to solve the problems of Etruscan ethnology and language. So great was Dr. Corssen's authority on the dialects of Italy that when the first volume of his Sprache der Etrusker appeared, it was enthusiastically accepted as definitely clearing up the mystery that even Müller had failed to illuminate; and the author was hailed as “the Oedipus of the Etruscan Sphinx.” But the sober second judgment of scholars did not confirm this verdict, and the second volume (which appeared soon after Corssen's death) was read in a far different spirit. In fact, though the work is laboriously learned, and bears everywhere the marks of immense research, its theories fail to commend themselves, and the volumes are now only historically interesting. See Etruria.

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