Georg August Wallin

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Georg August Wallin

Georg (George) August Wallin (Yrjö Aukusti Wallin, aka Abd al-Wali; 24 October 1811 – 23 October 1852) was a Finnish orientalist, explorer and professor remembered for his journeys in the Middle East during the 1840s.

Biography[edit]

Wallin was born in the municipality of Sund on the Baltic island of Åland in 1811. In 1829 he enrolled to study Oriental Languages at the University of Helsinki, graduating with an MA in 1836. He then began writing a dissertation about Arabic and Persian, while working as a librarian in the university library.

In 1839 he travelled to St. Petersburg, where he met Sheikh Muhammad Sayyad al-Tantawi and learned more about the Middle East. He made his first expedition to the area in 1843.

When Wallin went for his expeditions he portrayed himself as a Muslim and took the name Abd al-Wali in order to get closer to his subjects. Many people believe Wallin converted to Islam, but there is no proof to support that claim at least according to his diaries and letters. His grave in Hietaniemi cemetery in Helsinki has his Arabic name engraved over it with Arabic letters. He is buried on Christian church ground.

He visited Mecca in 1845, a city otherwise forbidden to non-Muslims. Between 1846 and 1848 he visited Palestine and Persia. During this time he may have adopted Islam, although his writings indicate scepticism toward religion.

By 1850 Wallin had returned to Europe, where the Royal Geographical Society published his Notes taken during a Journey through part of Northern Arabia and awarded him its Founder's Medal in recognition of his ground-breaking research. Wallin completed his doctoral thesis in 1851 and was subsequently appointed Professor of Oriental Literature at the University of Helsinki.

He was asked by both the Royal and Russian Geographical Societies to mount another expedition to the Middle East, but declined, perhaps in part due to failing health.

He wrote that he found European culture oppressive and that he "couldn't adapt [him]self to Europe any more". Whatever the cause, Wallin died on 23 October 1852, only three years after his return to Finland and a day before his forty-first birthday.

Bibliography[edit]

  • Notes Taken During a Journey Though Part of Northern Araba in 1848. Published by the Royal Geographical Society in 1851
  • Narrative of a Journeys From Cairo to Medina and Mecca by Suez, Arabia, Tawila, Al-Jauf, Jubbe, Hail and Nejd, in 1845, Royal Geographic Society, 1854
  • William R. Mead, G. A. Wallin and the Royal Geographical Society, Studia Orientalia 23, 1958.
  • Georg Wallin, reprinted in Travels in Arabia, New York: Oleander Press, 1979:
    • Notes taken during a Journey through part of Northern Arabia, Journal of the Royal Geographical Society 20, 1851.
    • Narrative of a Journey from Cairo to Medina and Mecca, Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society 24, 1854.
    • Narrative of a Journey from Cairo to Jerusalem, Journal of the Royal Geographical Society 25, 1855.