Who is Who in Terminology: Eugen Wüster (1898-1977)
I’m starting this series with the obvious: The Father of Terminology, founder of the Vienna School and the General Theory of Terminology: Austrian terminologist Eugen Wüster. I have talked previously about Wüster in other posts, and I even prepared this infographic that summarized the many hats that he wore during his productive professional life: Esperantist, Engineer, Terminologist, Lexicographer, Terminographer, Translator, Linguist, Bibliographer, Language Planner, Librarian, and Professor.
But I couldn’t start talking about other important terminologists without starting with a short bio about Wüster, since all of them have been influenced by Wüster, (or Wüster being influenced by them). While it would be impossible to mention all of his achievements in a short blog post (and it would be pointless to repeat here what the Wikipedia says), I would like to share some highlights of a chronology that Angela Campo summarized in her PhD thesis on Wüster’s work, which I have completed with information from an Infoterm’s report*:
1927: He received his electrical engineering degree at the Technical University of Berlin.
1931: He became a doctor of technical sciences at the Technical University of Stuttgart (Germany) and published his doctoral dissertation “Linguistic Standardization in Technics”.
1935: His dissertation was translated into Russian and became mandatory reading for students of terminology in the Soviet Union.
1951: He took over the Secretariat of Technical Committee ISO/TC 37 “Terminology (Principles and Co-ordination)” for the Austrian Standards Institute (ON).
1961: He was elected Chairman of the Sub-Committee on Proposals for Multilingual Dictionaries (UNESCO).
1964: As leader of ISO/TC 37, he submitted a ten-page document on dictionaries and glossaries outlining the actions to be taken for multilingual dictionaries.
1968: He published his “Machine Tool Dictionary”, with 1401 concepts arranged according to the Universal Decimal Classification (UDC) system, showing terms and definitions in English and French, but only the terms in German. It was key for the preparation of the multilingual term bank of the European Commission – EURODICAUTOM (today Inter-Active Terminology for Europe – IATE).
1969: The Universal System for Information in Science and Technology (UNISIST) program was launched. Wüster was asked to submit two terminology-related reports on behalf of UNESCO, today known as The Road to Infoterm.
1971: The Council of Europe showed interest in the co-ordination of terminology training and contacted Eugen Wüster. As a result, Infoterm was official founded in Vienna, by contract with UNESCO, and the ON put in charge of its implementation.
1972-74: He lectured on Lexicology, Lexicography and specifically Terminology Science and Standardization at the University of Vienna.
1977: He dies at the age of 79 in Vienna, after a severe illness.
1979: Posthumous publication of his General Theory of Terminology “Introduction to general terminology teaching lexicography and terminology” (Einführung in die allgemeine Terminologielehre und terminologische Lexikographie).
He collected literature on terminology from all over the world known as the Wieselburg collection, as it was located in his private terminology center in that city in Austria, and today it’s the Eugen Wüster Archive at the University of Vienna. Eugen Wüster prepared many drafts in the preparation of ISO recommendations and standards, using analysis based on material from his Wieselburg collection. The University and City of Vienna sponsor The Eugene Wüster Prize for outstanding achievements in the field of terminological research.
Campo notes that several authors indicated that he was a reserved person and that some people misunderstood that as arrogance, but that he was “meticulous and obsessive about accuracy. He also planned everything in great detail; nothing was left to chance”.
Sources and further reading:
CAMPO, Angela The Reception of Eugen Wüster’s Work and the Development of Terminology (2012)
*30 years of Infoterm – International Information Centre for Terminology
The Wikipedia. [visited on 12/26/2014]