W. F. H. Nicolaisen, German-born Scottish scholar, Died at 88


W. F. H. Nicolaisen was born on June 13, 1927, in Halle/Saale, Germany, and died on February 15, 2016, in Aberdeen, Scotland.

He was a folklorist, linguist, medievalist, scholar of onomastics and literature, educator, and author with specialties in Scottish and American studies.

W. F. H. Nicolaisen was born Wilhelm Fritz Hermann Nicolaisen on June 13, 1927, in Halle/Saale, in east-central Germany, near Leipzig.

His father was a professor of agriculture.

He attended the University of Kiel in Germany from 1948 to 1950 where he studied folklore, language, and literature.

W.F.H attended the King’s College, in 1950, Newcastle upon Tyne, now the University of Newcastle in England.

W. F. H. Nicolaisen returned to Germany to study at the University of Tübingen, where he received his Dr. Phil. magna cum laude in comparative linguistics, English, and German in 1955.

Amongst his professors were renowned folklorists Kurt Ranke and Walter Anderson.

Having been awarded a “Scholarship for Advanced Studies in Arts” from the University of Glasgow, Nicolaisen later received Bachelor and Master of Letters degrees (1956, 1970) in Celtic Studies.

Nicolaisen discourse in Germany had been on the river names of the British Isles (“Die morphologisch und semasiologische Struktur der Gewassernamen der britischen Inseln”) and in Glasgow, he focused on Scottish river names (“Studies in Scottish Hydronymy”).

He married May Marshall in Scotland and they had four children: Fiona, Kirsten, Moira, and Birgit, in 1958.

During his time at the universities in Glasgow and Dublin Nicolaisen taught German language and literature and from 1956 to 1969 he worked in the School of Scottish Studies at the University of Edinburgh as head of the Scottish Place-Name Survey.

Nicolaisen had research interests in language (particularly place names), in folklore (narrative and balladry), in literature (medieval classics and Scottish poets and novelists), and in cultural history (Scotland, the British Isles, and Scandinavia).

He came to Ohio State University in the United States as visiting a professor of English and folklore, in the fall of 1966.

During 1967, Nicolaisen returned to the University of Edinburgh, becoming the acting head of its School of Scottish Studies in 1968.

Over the year, W. F. H. Nicolaisen left for the United States to take the position of associate professor in the English Department at the State University of New York at Binghamton.

W. F. H. Nicolaisen passed away 88 yrs old.