HUTH, GEORG, German Indologist, Tibetologist, Tugusologist, Mongolist, and the founder of Tibetology as a field of research at German universities (b. Krotoschin, Province of Posen, 25 February 1867; d. Berlin, 1 June 1906; Figure 1).  His significance for Iranian studies is due to his participation in the first of the four German Turfan expeditions organized by the Königliches Museum für Völkerkunde of Berlin in 1902, his expedition to Afghanistan and the Pamir region, and his collection of Persian manuscripts.

Georg Huth was the son of Aron Huth (d. 1893), the director of a Jewish orphanage, and his wife Dina Zaduck.  In 1878 the family moved to Berlin, where he visited the school.  He entered the Univesity of Berlin in April 1885, studied Oriental languages, and graduated with a Ph.D. degree from the University of Leipzig in June 1889, with a thesis on the time and the chronology of the works of the Indian poet Kālidāsa (fl. 5th cent. CE).  Huth studied Chinese, Manchu, Mongolian and Tibetan languages under the famous Sinologist Georg von der Gabelentz (1840-1893) and the Sinologist and Tungusologist Wilhelm Grube (1855-1908; Walravens and Hopf, p. 26).  He also studied Sanskrit, Avestan, Pali, and Hindustani languages with scholars Paul Jakob Deussen (1845-1919), Hermann Oldenberg (1854-1920), Friedrich Rosen (1856-1935), and Albrecht Weber (1825-1901).  Huth was the first qualified Tibetologist and Mongolist to teach at a German university (Huber and Niermann).  Already during his time as a student, he did some research on the field of comparative literature and folkore studies.  For his work “Die Reisen der drei Söhne des Königs von Serendippo” (1888) he was awarded with a Mendelssohn scholarship (on which, see  In 1891 he received his postdoctoral qualification (habilitation) and started teaching Central Asiatic languages and also Buddhism at Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität in Berlin. 

In 1897 he was invited by the Russian orientalists Wilhelm Radloff (1837-1918) and Carl Hermann Salemann to do some linguistic and folklore research among the Ewenki tribes around the Yenissei river in Russia.  In the same year he traveled for this purpose on behalf of the Academy of Sciences at St. Petersburg to Siberia, where he collected linguistic and ethnographic materials (Kotwicz and Walravens, p. 828; Menges, p. 25).  Upon his return to Berlin, he was appointed as a scientific collaborator at the Museum for Ethnology (Museum für Völkerkunde) in Berlin.  In the museum he worked at the Indian department with Albert Grünwedel, the co-director of the museum, and was assigned to the Tibetan collection.

A significant change in his career and further scientific life took place when Grünwedel was invited by Radloff and Salemann to take part in an archeological expedition to Eastern Turkestan in 1899.  Grünwedel decided to organize his own German expedition, and, since it had to be privately financed, Huth used his contacts in Berlin to procure some financial support for this endeavor.  Together with the well-known pharmacologist, Louis Lewin (1850-1929), he was able to provide this support, which was granted by the industrialists Friedrich Alfred Krupp (1854-1902) and James Simon (von Le Coq, p. 15; on the latter, see Cohen, p. 5).  Once this first Turfan expedition (1902-1903) was organized, Huth himself took part in it, joining Grünwedel, his assistant Hermann Pohrt, and the museum’s technician Theodor Bartus (1858-1941).  

While the other participants returned to Berlin when the campaign was over, Huth remained in Central Asia until 1904, continuing his Iranistic research besides using the chance to improve his knowledge of several Turkic languages and collect Turkish folklore materials in West Turkistan and Afghanistan.  Among the manuscripts he collected in Eastern Turkistan, there were numerous materials in several Iranian languages (e.g., Sogdian, Parthian).  Although these had not been identified during the Turfan expedition, Huth assumed their Iranian character; he also supposed that unknown language(s) later identified and designated as Tokharian was/were Iranian. Later the unknown languages of the manuscripts from Qarā Šahr and Quča (Tokharian A and B) turned out to be Indo-European, but not specifically Iranian. Huth tried to collect materials from modern Iranian languages spoken in the Pamir region to use in a comparative study in order to identify the languages of the manuscripts, and in fact the closest living relative of Sogdian is Yaghnobi, spoken in the Pamir region.  In addition to his researches, Huth collected numerous Persian and Chaghatay manuscripts, which he personally brought to Berlin.

After his return to Berlin, Huth was unable to work further.  During his travels in West Turkistan and the Pamir region, he had become infected with tuberculosis, from which he never recovered.  To find some financial support he sold the Oriental manuscripts he had collected in West Turkistan and Afghanistan to libraries as well as private collectors. He died on 1 June 1906 in his apartment in Berlin following a hemoptysis and was buried at the Jewish cemetery in Berlin Weissensee.



Anton Bettelheim, “Huth, Georg,” Biographisches Jahrbuch und deutscher Nekrolog X, 1908, p. 34.

Richard I. Cohen, “The Visual Revolution in Jewish Life—an Overview,” in idem, ed.,  Visualizing and Exhibiting Jewish Space and History, Oxford and New York, 2012, pp. 5-24. 

Ismar Elbogen, “Huth, Georg,” Encyclopaedia Judaica: Das Judentum in Geschichte und Gegenwart VIII: Hesse-Jerusalem, Berlin, 1931, pp. 296-97.

S. Feist, “Huth, Georg,” Jüdisches Lexikon: Ein enzyklopädisches Handbuch des jüdischen Wissens in vier Bänden II, Berlin, 1927; repr., Frankfurt on the Main, 1987, p. 1701.

Toni Huber and Tina Niermann, “Tibetan Studies at the Berlin University: An Institutional History,” in Peter H. Maurer and Peter Schwieger, eds., Tibetstudien: Festschrift für Dieter Schuh zum 65. Geburtstag, Bonn, 2007, pp. 95-122.

Georg Huth, Die Zeit des Kālidāsa Mit einem Anhang: Zur Chronologie der Werke des Kalidāsā, Berlin, 1890.

“Huth, Georg,” in Salomon Wininger, ed., Grosse jüdische National-Biographie, mit mehr als 8.000 Lebensbeschreibungen namhafter jüdischer Männer und Frauen aller Zeiten und Länder, Ein Nachschlagewerk für das jüdische Volk und dessen Freunde III, Cernăuţi, 1928, pp. 180-81.

“Huth, Georg,” in Isaac Landmann, ed., The Universal Jewish Encyclopedia in Ten Volumes V, New York, 1948, pp. 508-9.

Internationales Taschenbuch für Orientalisten I, Halle and Leipzig, 1907, pp. 70-72.

“Juedische Dozenten an der Berliner Universität,” Ost und West: Illustrierte Monatsschrift für das gesamte Judentum: Organ der Deutschen Conferenz-Gemeinschaft der Alliance Israélite Universelle 10 (11), Berlin, November 1910, pp. cols. 739-52 (on Huth, cols.  747-48, portrait, cols. 745-46).

Siegmund Kaznelson, ed., Juden im deutschen Kulturbereich: Ein Sammelwerk, 2nd ed., Berlin, 1959.

Michael Knüppel and Aloïs van Tongerloo, “Fragmente aus den Briefwechseln von Georg Huth (1867-1906),” Zentralasiatische Studien 41, 2012, pp. 243-62.

Władysław Kotwicz and H. Walravens, “Materialien zur Erforschung der tungusischen Mundarten,” Anthropos 76/5-6, 1981, 826-37.

Berthold Laufer, “Dr. Georg Huth†,” T’oung Pao 7/5, 1906, pp. 702-6.

Albert von Le Coq, Die buddhistische Spätantike in Mittelasien I: Die Plastik, Berlin, 1922. 

Karl Heinrich Menges, “Die tungusischen Sprachen,” in Handbuch der Orientalistik, sec. 1: Der Nahe und Mittlere Osten V: Altaistik, part 3: Tungusologie, Leiden and Köln 1968, pp. 21-256.

Hans Morgenstern, Jüdisches biographisches Lexikon: Eine Sammlung von bedeutenden Persönlichkeiten jüdischer Herkunft ab 1800, 2nd ed., Vienna and Münster, 2011, p. 371.

Valentina Stache-Rosen and Agnes Stache-Weiske, German Indologists: Biographies of Scholars in Indian Studies Wiritng in German, With a Summary of Indology in German Speaking Countries, New Delhi, 1981, p. 175.

“Nachrichten von der Expedition der Herrn Grünwedel und Huth nach Turkestan,” Zeitschrift für Ethnologie: Organ der Berliner Gesellschaft für Anthropologie, Ethnologie und Urgeschichte 35, 1903, p. 477.

Claus Vogel, “Huth, Georg,” Neue Deutsche Biographie X, 1974, p. 94.

Helmut Walravens and Iris Hopf, Wilhelm Grube (1855-1908): Leben, Werk und Sammlungen des Sprachwissenschaftlers, Ethnologen und Sinologen, Wiesbaden, 2007.

(Michael Knüppel)

Originally Published: September 3, 2014

Last Updated: September 3, 2014

Cite this entry:

Michael Knüppel, "HUTH, GEORG, " Encyclopædia Iranica, online edition, 2014, available at (accessed on 03 September 2014).