1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Scherer, Wilhelm

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SCHERER, WILHELM (1841-1886), German philologist and historian of literature, was born at Schönborn in Lower Austria on the 26th of April 1841. He was educated at the academic gymnasium at Vienna and afterwards at the university, where he was the favourite pupil of the distinguished Germanist, Karl Viktor Müllenhoff (1818-1884). Having taken the degree of doctor philosophiae, he became Privatdozent for German language and literature in 1864. In 1868 he was appointed ordinary professor, and in 1872 received a call in a like capacity to Strassburg, and in 1877 to Berlin, where in 1884 he was made member of the Academy of Sciences. He died at Berlin on the 6th of August 1886.

Scherer's literary activity falls into three categories: in Vienna he was the philologist, at Strassburg the professor of literature and in Berlin the author. His earliest work was a biography of the great philologist Jakob Grimm (1865, 2nd ed. 1885); he next, in conjunction with his former teacher Müllenhoff, published Denkmäler deutscher Poesie und Prosa aus dem 8. bis 12. Jahrhundert (1864, 3rd ed. 1892). His first great work was, however, Zur Geschichte der deutschen Sprache (Berlin, 1868; 3rd ed., 1890), being a history of the German language with especial reference to phonetic laws. He contributed the section on Alsatian literature to O. Lorenz's Geschichte des Elsasses (1871, 3rd ed. 1886). Other important works are Geistliche Poeten der deutschen Kaiserzeit (Strassburg, 1874-1875); Geschichte der deutschen Dichtung im 11. und 12. Jahrhundert (1875); and Vorträge und Aufsätze zur Geschichte des geistigen Lebens in Deutschland und Österreich (1874). Scherer's best-known work is his history of German literature, Geschichte der deutschen Literatur (Berlin, 1883; 10th ed., 1905; English translation by Mrs F. C. Conybeare, 1883; new ed., 1906). This work is distinguished by the clearness with which details are co-ordinated with a general and comprehensive survey of German literature from the beginning to the death of Goethe. Besides many other philological treatises, Scherer wrote largely on Goethe (Aus Goethes Frühzeit, 1879; Aufsätze über Goethe, 1886), and took an active part in the foundation of the Goethe archives at Weimar. A small treatise on Poetik, a biography of Karl Müllenhoff, and two volumes of Kleine Schriften were published after his death.

See V. Basch, Wilhelm Scherer et la philologie allemande (Paris, 1889), and the article by Eduard Schröder in Allgemeine deutsche Biographie.