Grimm Brothers, two 19th-century German scholars and brothers, who were leaders in the study of philology and folklore. Their names were Jacob Ludwig Karl Grimm (1785-1863) and Wilhelm Karl Grimm (1786-1859).
Both brothers were born in Hanau—Jacob on January 4, 1785, and Wilhelm on February 24, 1786—and they were educated at the University of Marburg. Jacob was primarily a scientific philologist, having become interested at the university in medieval literature and the scientific investigation of language. Wilhelm was more a textual and literary critic. After several years in diplomatic and library posts in Kassel, the brothers went in 1830 to the University of Göttingen, where Wilhelm became a librarian and Jacob a lecturer on ancient law, literary history, and philosophy. For political reasons, the brothers returned to Kassel in 1837. In 1841, at the invitation of Frederick William IV of Prussia, they settled in Berlin, where they remained for the rest of their lives as teachers at the university. Wilhelm died December 16, 1859; Jacob died September 20, 1863.
Jacob Grimm's greatest scientific work is Deutsche Grammatik (German Grammar, 1819), generally considered the foundation of Germanic philology. The second edition (1822) contains Grimm's law of sound shift, an aid in the reconstruction of dead languages. His other works include Über den altdeutschen Meistergesang (On the Old German Meistersinging, 1811), Deutsche Mythologie (German Mythology, 1835), and Geschichte der deutschen Sprache (History of the German Language, 1848). Some of Wilhelm Grimm's works, which include editions and critical discussions of medieval German literature and folklore, are Altdänische Heldenlieder (Old Danish Hero-Songs, 1811), Die deutschen Heldensage (The German Heroic Legends, 1829), Ruolandslied (The Song of Roland, 1838), and Altdeutsche Gespräche (Old German Speech, 1851).
The Grimm brothers were attracted to old German folktales, which they collected from many sources and published as Household Tales (2 volumes, 1812-1815; trans. 1884). The collection, expanded in 1857, is known as Grimm's Fairy Tales. The brothers collaborated on numerous other works. In 1854 they published the first volume of the monumental Deutsches Wörterbuch, the standard German dictionary, which was completed by other scholars in 1954.1