Robert von Heine-Geldern

Robert Baron (Freiherr) von Heine-Geldern (July 16, 1885 - May 25/26, 1968), often known as Robert Heine-Geldern, was a noted Austrian ethnologist, ancient historian, and archaeologist, and a grandnephew of poet Heinrich Heine.


Heine-Geldern was born in Grub, Austria, studied first at the University of Munich, then art history and ethnography under Father Wilhelm Schmidt (1868-1954) at the University of Vienna. In 1910 he traveled to the India / Burma boundary to study local populations, completing his thesis in 1914 on The Mountain Tribes of Northeastern Burma.

Heine-Geldern performed military service during World War I, then worked at the Naturhistorisches Museum in Vienna. His research combined ethnological, pre-historical and archaeological concepts, and in 1923 pioneered the field of Southeast Asian anthropology with his chapter "Sϋdostasien" in G. Buschan's Illustrierte Völkerkunde. He began teaching at the University of Vienna in 1927, where he became Professor in 1931. From 1938 through World War II, he lived as a refugee in New York City, where he worked at the American Museum of Natural History. At this time he was instrumental in creation of the Southeast Asia Institute in the United States (1941). He returned to Vienna in 1950 where he joined the Ethnology Institute. He died in Vienna.

Heine-Geldern was active in starting Southeast Asian studies as an academic field, and his essay on "Conceptions of State and Kingship in Southeast Asia," (1942) is now classic. He was awarded a medal by the Viking Fund, and was a member of the Austrian Academy of Sciences, Royal Asiatic Society, Royal Anthropological Institute, and the École française d'Extrême-Orient.

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