Otto Heinrich Louis August Dempwolff (1871-1938) was a German linguist who became famous for his research into Austronesian languages. He started as a physician and soldier, but later found a path to studying languages in Africa and New Guinea. His work is still used today. Let him speak for himself (translated from German):
As can be seen from the biographical form, I worked as a doctor until I was 40 years old, mostly in the German colonies; in addition, I had increasingly occupied myself with ethnographic and linguistic research from year to year.
When I retired as a military doctor in 1911, I devoted myself entirely to the study of linguistics, especially the study of indigenous languages. During the last years of my colonial service, Professor Meinhof had already become my esteemed professor, both verbally and in writing; mainly under his leadership, I continued my language studies from April 1911 to September 1913 at the Hamburg Colonial Institute.
During the three semesters of 1912, 1912/13, and 1913 I was given teaching assignments for African and South Sea languages at the Colonial Institute.
In the autumn of 1913 I went on a trip to the South Seas to gather new language material among the natives there.
The war interrupted this activity and took me back to Germany in the spring of 1915. Here I was deployed partly in the field and partly at home as a medical officer in the army, but was also able to continue my linguistic studies at least partly, e.g. 1917 in the prison camp in Ruhleben.
After my discharge from military service, I have been employed as a research assistant at the seminar for African and South Sea languages since February 25, 1919, so that my official work goes hand in hand with my activity as a private lecturer.
1. Name: Otto Heinrich Louis August Dempwolff.
2. Birthday, -place: May 25, 1871, Pillau in East Prussia.
3. Course of Education: Gymnasium in Memel 1878–1888. University of Könnigsberg i. Pr., Marburg, Leipzig, Berlin, Tübingen 1888–1893. Dr. med. Berlin, Mar 12, 1892. Medical licence Stuttgart, Jan 31, 1893.
4. Activities before the habilitation: physician; ship's doctor on trips to South America 1894 and 1898. Doctor at the German New Guinea Company 1895–97. Medical officer in the German South West African Schutztruppe 1898–1906, in the German East African Schutztruppe 1906–1911, in the army 1915–1919; Oberstabsarzt a. D.
5. Academic Career: Privatdozent for African and South Seas languages; Hamburg University, Faculty of Philosophy, May 10, 1920.
6. Activities in addition to academic: Scientific assistant at the seminar for African and South Sea languages, Hamburg Feb 25,1919.
7. Scientific trips: Malaria expedition to the South Seas as Robert Koch's assistant 1901–03. Journey to the South Seas for private research 1913–1914.
8. Memberships of learned societies and scientific associations: Berliner anthropologische Gesellschaft 1904. Frankfurter orientalischer Verein 1913. Hamburger religionswissenschaftliche Gesellschaft 1919. Hamburger geographische Gesellschaft 1921. Hamburger phonetische Gesellschaft 1921. Deutsche Morgenländische Gesellschaft 1925.
9. Academic honors: Title of professor awarded by the Hamburg Senate on May 31, 1918.
Hamburg, March 1922; 1925
Prof. Dr. Otto Dempwolff
see: Archivführer Deutsche Kolonialgeschichte (archivfuehrer-kolonialzeit.de/ ...)
see: Pacific Manuscripts Bureau (asiapacific.anu.edu.au/...)