Bodies of Knowledge


The first great collector in Scandinavia and a phenomenal figure in North European intellectual history, Ole Worm (1588-1654) has been claimed as a local founding father for several modern disciplines, including archeology, museology, philology, ethnology, and folklore. A professor of medicine at the University of Copenhagen, he set up a famous museum that came to form the basis for Denmark’s National Museum, he engineered pioneering ethnological questionnaire surveys of the Danish kingdom, he wrote a monumental work on runes, and collected and published medieval folklore and literature. This article analyzes the life and work of Ole Worm in order to clarify the emergence of the scholar as a third power in Europe, alongside the clergy and the nobility, and to shed light on notions of virtue and virtuosity in the late Renaissance.

How to Cite

Hafstein, V. T., (2003) “Bodies of Knowledge”, Ethnologia Europaea 33(1), 5-20. doi:

Publisher Notes

  • This article was previously published by Museum Tusculanum Press.


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Valdimar Tr. Hafstein (University of California)



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