Karl Penka

Karl Penka (26 October 1847 – 10 February 1912) was an Austrian philologist and anthropologist.

Born in Müglitz, Moravia (now Mohelnice, Czech Republic), from 1873 until 1906 Penka was a master at the Maximiliansgymnasium, a high school for boys, in Vienna.[1]

Penka studied anthropology from the point of view of comparative linguistics and took a particular interest in the origins of the Indo-Europeans. He used the term Aryan in the linguistic sense and also extended it into a broad term of race and culture. It was he who popularized the theory that the Aryan race had emerged in Scandinavia and could be identified by the Nordic characteristics of blue eyes and blond hair. In his Origines Ariacae ('Origins of the Aryans') of 1883 he proposed that the Indo-European homeland was in the far north, the Hyperborea of antiquity.[2] Penka has been called "a transitional figure between Aryanism and Nordicism".[3]

Penka died in Vienna in 1912. He is now seen as a pioneer of racist and anti-Semitic theories in ethnology.

Selected worksEdit

  • Die Nominalflexion der indogermanischen Sprachen (Vienna, 1878)
  • Origines Ariacae. Linguistisch-ethnologische Untersuchungen zur ältesten Geschichte der arischen Völker und Sprachen (Vienna, 1883)
  • Die Herkunft der Arier. Neue Beiträge zur historischen Anthropologie der europäischen Völker (Vienna, 1886)
  • 'Entstehung der arischen Rasse' in Das Ausland (1891), from p. 132
  • Neue Hypothesen über die Urheimat der Arier (Leipzig, 1906)
  • O. Schraders Hypothese von der südrussischen Urheimat der Indogermanen (Leipzig, 1908, in series Beiträge zur Rassenkunde, 6)

Further readingEdit

  • Lars von Karstedt, Sprache und Kultur. Eine Geschichte der deutschsprachigen Ethnolinguistik (Diss, Hamburg 2004)
  • Z. Filip, Biografický slovník okresu Šumperk (Šumperk, 2001)
  • Kurt Riedel, Die rassenkundliche Begründung des Begriffs "nordisch" durch den Wiener Professor Karl Penka (Dresden, 1940)


  1. ^ Mitteilungen der Anthropologischen Gesellschaft in Wien (Anthropological Society of Vienna, 1912), p. 222: "Karl Penka: Der am 10. Februar 1912 verstorbene Paläoethnologe Prof. Karl Penka wurde am 26. Oktober 1847 zu Müglitz ... geboren... Im Jahre 1873 wurde er Professor am kk Maximiliansgymnasium in Wien, an dem er bis 1906 im Lehramte tätig war."
  2. ^ Jocelyn Godwin, Arktos: the Polar Myth in Science, Symbolism, and Nazi Survival (Thames & Hudson Ltd, 1993), pp. 32-50
  3. ^ Christopher Hutton, Race and the Third Reich (2005), p. 108: "A transitional figure between Aryanism and Nordicism was Karl Penka (1847–1912), who argued for the origin of the Aryans in northwest Europe, so that the Aryan race was in effect a Nordic race."