GRASSMANN, Hermann Günther. Stettin 15.4.1809 — Stettin 26.9.1877. German Indologist and Mathematician. Schoolteacher in Stettin. Son of Justus Günter Gr. a teacher of mathematics, and Johanne Fredericke Louise Medenwaldt, educated in Stettin. From 1827 studies of theology at Berlin under Schleiermacher, also philology under Böckh and privately mathematics. In 1830 returned to Stettin, where he in 1831 passed the examen pro facultate docendi in classical languages and restricted examen in mathematics, in 1834 first and 1839 second theological examen and in 1840 full examen in mathematics (he was then already a noted mathematician). From 1834 teacher of mathematics at Berliner Gewerbeschule, in 1836-42 “erster wiss. Lehrer” at Ottoschule in Stettin, in 1842-43 at Stettin Gymnasium and 1843-52 teacher of mathematics at Friedrich-Wilhelmschule. In 1852 succeeded his father as Professor of Mathematics at Marienstifts-Gymnasium in Stettin, remained there until his death. He had a big family with eleven children.
Grassmann was a skilled mathematician and physicist and many-sided scholar, whose wide literary output dealt with German philology, theology, mathematics, etc. Seeing the importance of Sanskrit for comparative linguistics he learnt it by himself (beginning 1849). In 1863 he presented in KZ the “Grassmann’s law” on successive aspirates, of which one (mainly the first) loses its aspiration. In Sanskrit philology he was mainly active in his old age and restricted solely on the Veda. He composed the Rigvedic dictionary for himself, but at the request of noted Indologists consented to publish it. His poetic, free rendering of the RV intended to show the meaning of each hymn, but this meaning was often misunderstood. The dictionary is thus still useful, but the translation completely antiquated.
Publications: Much unrelated to Indology, especially on mathematics.
– “Über die Verbindung der stummen Konsonanten mit folgendem v und die davon abhängigen Erscheinungen”, KZ 9, 1860, 1-35; “Über die Verbindung der Konsonanten mit folgendem j und die davon abh. Ersch.”, KZ 11, 1862, 1-52; “Über die Aspiraten und ihr gleichzeitiges Vorhandensein im An- und Auslaut der Wurzeln”, KZ 12, 1863, 81-138; further brief articles on IE in KZ.
– Wörterbuch zum Rig-Veda. 896 p. Lp. 1872-75; 6. von M. Kozianka bearbeitetet, ergänzte und korrigierte Auflage. 1743 p. Wb. 1996.
– Rig-Veda. Übersetzt und mit kritischen und erläuternden Anmerkungen versehen. 1-2. 589+523 p. Lp. 1876-77.
Sources: Cantor & Leskien, A.D.B. 9, 1879, 595-598; G. Kirschmer, N.D.B. 7, 1966, 5f.; *A. Müller, BB 2, 1878, 342-347; *H.-J. Petsche et al. (eds.), From Past to Future: Graßmann’s Work in Context: Graßmann Bicentennial Conference 2009. Basel 2011; Renou, Maitres 1928, 11-15; *V. Schlegel, H.Gr. Sein Leben und seine Werke. Lp. 1878; Stache-Rosen 1990, 35f.; *Wikipedia with photo (see also German version); photo in Rau 18 (from Grassmann’s Gesammelte Mathematische und Physikalische Werke. 3:2. Lp. 1911), similar in Sardesai 1938.
Much has been written about Gr. as mathematician, for references see the Wikipedia articles.
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