W. F. H. "Bill" Nicolaisen (1927-2016)
Tuesday, February 16, 2016
Posted by: Shannon K. Larson
W. F. H. "Bill" Nicolaisen (born June 13, 1927 in Halle/Saale, Germany, died February 14, 2016) was a folklorist, linguist, medievalist, scholar of onomastics and literature, educator, and author with specialties in Scottish, European, and American folklore.
He received his Dr. Phil. magna cum laude in comparative linguistics, English, and German in 1955 from the University Tuebingen in Germany. He would go on to teach at universities in Glasgow, Dublin, and Edinburgh; at the Ohio State University as visiting professor of English and folklore; and at the State University of New York at Binghamton as associate professor of English. At Binghamton, Nicolaisen achieved the rank of Distinguished Professor of English and Folklore.
Nicolaisen's first publications, beginning in 1957, were on place names. One of his best known works is Scottish Place Names, a monumental volume that won the Chicago Folklore Prize for outstanding contribution to folklore studies. His output of over 600 journal articles and essays built on this foundation to move into narrative studies, including research on legend, ballad, folktale, jokes, personal experience narrative, and literature.
To name just a few of his many honors and accomplishments, Nicolaisen is the only folklorist to have been president of both the American Folklore Society and the Folklore Society (Great Britain). He also served as president of the American Name Society and New York Folklore Society, in addition to being its editor. In 2002, he was the first recipient of the American Folklore Society's lifetime scholarly achievement award.