Gerhard Schøning 1722-1780

The young son of a country storekeeper, Gerhard Schøning left his home in Buksnes in Lofoten to study at the Latin school [Katedralskolen] in Trondheim in 1739. Here he soon was given the nickname "the fatherland man", inspired as he was by the typical themes of poets of this time: love of Norwegian nature, culture and history. This was also where he found his motivation for what was to be his life's work, which was to write "Norges Riiges Historie" [The history of the realm of Norway], published 1771-81.
During his years of study he was highly favoured by his principal, Benjamin Dass, and he remained his close friend for the rest of his life. After Schøning's years of study at the University of Copenhagen, Dass even engineered it so that Schøning had Royal permission to take over the post of principal in the Latin school in Trondheim!
Accompanying him from Copenhagen was another man soon to become his good friend and collaborator in Trondheim; the young historian Peter Frederik Suhm. For the more penniless Schøning, Suhm also was a patron who supported his publications, among other things the first detailed description of Nidaros Cathedral in Trondheim, printed in 1762. These two also established ties to the town's newly appointed bishop, Johan Ernst Gunnerus, and in 1760 the latter took the initiative to found the first learned association in Norway, Det Trondhjemske Selskab. Seven years later the name was The Royal Norwegian Society of Sciences and Letters.
In 1765 Suhm decided to return to Denmark, and this time Schøning followed with his wife Fredrika. He assumed a professorship in Sorø Akademi, and started working on a book about Norwegian cultural history, which led him to make a number of trips to study culture across Norway. But he did not have time to complete the dissertation before he was appointed as the official government archiver in Copenhagen. Parts of his studies are published in the book "Rejse som giennem en Deel af Norge i de Aar 1773, 1774, 1775 paa Hans Majestets Kongens bekostning er giort og beskreven" [Journeys which through parts of Norway in the years 1773, 1774, 1775 were made possible and paid for by His Majesty the King] (1887). Schøning died in Copenhagen in 1780.
Recommended reading: Ludvig Daae: Gerhard Schøning: En biographi [A biography]. 1880.

Author: Einar Rædergård