Jyväskylä University Museum

Uno Cygnaeus

Early Life
Uno Cygnaeus was born in Hämeenlinna, October 12, 1810. His father, treasurer of the province of Häme, died when Uno was only eight years old. Uno passed his matriculation examination in 1827. He started his university studies in Turku, but moved to Helsinki after the Turku Academy had been destroyed in a fire.

As a Young Theologian in Alaska
Cygnaeus took his Master's Degree in 1836, majoring in natural sciences. He supplemented his studies with theology and was ordained as a priest in 1837. For a couple of years he served as a minister in Viipuri, after which he was appointed to Alaska as the first pastor of the Sitka Lutheran congregation. Cygnaeus sailed to Sitka together with the new Finnish-born Governor Arvid Adolf Etholén. The voyage took them eight months. Cygnaeus worked in Sitka until 1845, when he returned to St. Petersburg.

Uno Cygnaeus

Uno Cygnaeus' Spectacle Case

As Vicar in St. Petersburg
Upon his return from Alaska, Cygnaeus served as an assistant clergyman in the Swedish parish of St. Catherine in St. Petersburg for a while. In 1847, he was transferred to the post of director at the parochial school of St. Mary in St. Petersburg. During his stay in St. Petersburg, Cygnaeus gained insight into educational issues and studied the latest pedagogic literature. Based on his experience, he drafted a proposal for the organization of popular education in Finland. His views also reflect the influence of the years spent in Alaska, where he had witnessed, for example, the profound impact of education on the lives of women.


"The Father of Finnish Elementary School"
In 1858, Cygnaeus was commissioned to draw up a plan for the Finnish elementary school system. He prepared for the task by studying the educational program and conditions at schools on a tour around Finland. He also made a study trip via Sweden and Denmark to the German States and to Switzerland. The kindergartens in Hamburg awakened his interest in "work education through play". However, above all he was impressed by the Swiss school system. In his travel account Cygnaeus emphasized the idea of "promoting work through work", and pointed out that apart from receiving instruction in theoretical subjects, a person also needs training in handicrafts. It was largely owing to this report that Cygnaeus was appointed as Chief Inspector of elementary schools in 1861. Finland was the first country where handicrafts were attached in the curriculum of general education.

In his plan for the Finnish elementary school system, Cygnaeus proposed that the Teacher Seminary should be situated in the vicinity of Jyväskylä. The first Finnish-language secondary schools, i.e. the Jyväskylä Lyceum and the Jyväskylä Girls' School, were already situated in the area. This seminary would have separate departments for men and women alike. The type of elementary school Cygnaeus suggested implied that class distinctions within society would diminish, because children from all social ranks went to the same schools. Cygnaeus also called special attention to child care and the education of small children by incorporating a crèche into the seminary.

Uno Cygnaeus' Rocking Chair

The Jyväskylä Teacher Seminary is Founded
Cygnaeus's plans were implemented in the Elementary Schools Statute of 1863. A Teacher Seminary was founded in Jyväskylä, comprising separate departments for both male and female students. In addition to the duties pertaining to his actual office, Cygnaeus acted as its first director up until 1869. Between 1870 and 1887, he was a member of the Central Schools Board. Uno Cygnaeus died in 1888.

Jyväskylä University Museum