Marriage and Status Equivalence

It has been clear throughout this book that marriages—which I have treated here as performances of status—were an important part of the creation of dynasties. The same was true of professor dynasties. From very early on professors were held in quite high regard in the marriage market, even though they occupied a fairly lowly position in official ranking lists—although they were at least in the process of rising up the social ladder. For example, while half of professors’ fathers were clerics, only 28 per cent of professors’ wives came from clerical families in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Furthermore, quite a large number of wives’ fathers were bishops at the time. While a mere 2 per cent of professors’ fathers were higher civil servants, 25 per cent of professors’ wives had the same family background. If we furthermore consider that 13 per cent of professors’ wives were of noble origin, accounting for a mere 2 per cent of the professoriate in the seventeenth century and for no more than 6 per cent in the eighteenth century, it is justified to conclude that these differences speak for the acceptable entry of professors into the marriage market of higher echelons.

Marriages into high families also continued in my sample of professor dynasties. The dynasticity of the Bernoulli was further consolidated by marriages into other professor families in the eighteenth century. The most noteworthy of such marriages was contracted between the youngest Jacob Bernoulli and the even more famous Swiss mathematician Leonhard Euler’s daughter. On the list of Top 10 Greatest Mathematicians (list-, Leonard Euler is regarded as ‘the greatest mathematician to have ever walked this planet’.

The Donners are a good example of families who strengthened dynas- ticity according to the kind of dynasty to which they belonged at the time. In the nineteenth century, as their wealth and riches continued to grow, marriages with other business achievers in their home region became increasingly common. One such marriage was to a daughter of the rich Falander family of industrialists, which greatly added to prestige of the Donners, particularly when this woman’s brother, Abraham Falander, was ennobled as Wasastjerna in 1818. Other marriages into this ennobled industrialist family and into one other prominent industrialist family in the same region, the Malms, manifested the prestigious status that these three families had achieved. Following the same path set by entrepreneurial dynasties at the time, Professor Otto Donner chose his first wife, his brother’s widow, from the Malm entrepreneur family. That marriage was contracted before his professorship. But his second wife was a noblewoman, Minette Munck, who was the Chancellor’s daughter. This marriage reflected the changed status of Otto Donner, that is, the shift from entrepreneurship to professorship. Other marriages to nobles and professors or their daughters followed in the family.

Cousin marriages clustered around dynastic families especially in their heyday. The Darwins are famous for their cousin marriages as far as professor dynasties are concerned, as their pedigree shows (Browne 1996). In 1796 Charles Darwin’s father Robert married Susannah Wedgwood, daughter of Josiah Wedgwood, who was a pottery manufacturer. Susanna’s parents were third cousins. Charles too married a Wedgwood, his first cousin Emma, as did Charles’s sister, Caroline, who married Josiah Wedgwood III. Charles’s youngest brother also married his first cousin but from another lineage. There were also some other cousin marriages in families related to Charles and Emma Darwin by marriage. The intermingling of scientific and kin ties was strengthened by Francis Galton, who was Charles’s half-cousin once removed. Galton’s famous book was titled Hereditary Genius (1869). Many Darwins and their relatives showed a keen interest in natural sciences and the issue of descent, and Charles Darwin’s son also explored the problems of cousin marriages (Kuper 2009, 94-101). There were also cousin marriages in the Nevanlinna, Donner and von Bonsdorff families, though less conspicuously than in the Darwin family.

In the twentieth century when dynasticity became increasingly porous, the growth of employment among professors’ wives contributed to add some interesting features to the picture of Finnish professors’ marriages. If—as is reasonable to assume—the absence of information about occupation means no employment, then 84 per cent of professors’ wives were not employed in 1900-17. That figure fell to 57 per cent in 1918-49, to 24 per cent in 1950-89 and finally to 12 per cent in 1990-2007. Percentages are of course only rough indicators of non-employment, but they do, nonetheless, show the general tendency. From the very outset, academic professionals are overrepresented among professors’ wives. At the same time as the proportion of farmers’ and workers’ sons in the professoriate increased from the 1960s onwards, the proportion of wives classified as lower-ranking professionals increased. While the proportion of teachers, nurses and lower business degrees was 14 per cent in 1950-69, that figure almost doubled to 27 per cent in 1970-89, but declined in 1990-2007 to the same level (15 per cent) as before this ‘democratic’ period. The change in 1970-89 was reflected in the proportions of higher-grade professionals, excluding professors and researchers whom we consider separately. The proportion of academic professionals was 63 per cent in 1950-69, dropping to 56 per cent in 1970-89 and staying at this level (55 per cent) in 1990-2007. The boundaries of status equivalence were thus stretched, but rarely beyond academic professionals or professionals in general. And indeed, farmers and workers are conspicuous by their absence in the professors’ marriage market; even those 30 per cent who rose to the professoriate from worker or farmer family backgrounds at the turn of the twentieth century did not marry farmers or workers. Although the professoriate is quite open by virtue of its high levels of social mobility, its marriage market certainly is not.

The range of status equivalence in the professorial marriage market was demarcated by university education, rather in the same way as nobility marked the outer limits for the nobility’s marriage market. At the highest tier of the nobility, however, councillors were not content with such a line of demarcation; they preferred identical status equivalence. Among professors, there was a similar tendency to marry professors’ daughters, but in the twentieth century things were further complicated by the entry of women into the professoriate. The focus here is therefore on the most endogamous marriages, professor-to-professor marriages. In the first half of the twentieth century, just 1 per cent of male professors were married to professors. The figure rose to 2 to 3 per cent between 1950 and 1989, and reached 4 per cent in 1990-2007. The proportions are higher if doctoral-level researchers are included, particularly in the last period, 12 per cent. However, female professors are conspicuously different in this respect. They are much more likely than their male colleagues to follow the imperative of identical status equivalence: between 1960 and 2007, 34 per cent of female professors married professors. When doctoral-level researchers are added to this figure, the proportion of almost identical status equivalence rises to 50 per cent. Moreover, if academic professionals are added, then 90 per cent of female professors’ husbands were professors, researchers or academic professionals. This suggests quite an exclusive marriage market, with half of all female professors marrying within academia.

Before we move on to artists, another category of professionals, it is worth considering the peculiarity of the professorship. The key to this is found in Arne Nevanlinna’s (1994, 17-25) memoirs about his family. With so many professors of mathematics in the family, the Nevanlinnas long cherished the assumption that mathematical talent must be a hereditary quality. This was not, however, only about the aura of inheriting something valuable, but rather about the privileged status that this unique talent would bring if one was prepared to educate oneself in order to get the necessary qualifications for an office, preferably for a professorship, as only such an office could bestow a high status on a talented person. Talent, in other words, if not coupled with the system of offices or some other formal system, counted for little if anything in society. Professorship was an integral part of such a coupling system, and the foundation on which the fame of professor dynasties rested. It also became an absolute rule in the Nevanlinna family that a university degree was a necessary asset in creating a prestigious career, although this rule was at first only applied to male family members. More generally, this rule loomed in the background of all pursuits of higher status at a time when the special privilege of occupying the highest offices had been lost for good.

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