*15 March 1851 [Berlin] 
†16 November 1925 [Porto]

  • The first woman to hold the position of university professor in Portugal
  • One of the first two women to become a member of the Lisbon Academy of Sciences
  • Founder of the National Council of Portuguese Women
  • An advocate of educational opportunities for Women in Portugal




The 2021/2022 – 2022/2023 Class of the European Master in Lexicography – Erasmus Mundus Joint Master Programme is named after Carolina Michaëlis.This tribute is meant to honour the memory of one of the few distinguished women in the history of Romance Philology.



[The Early years]

Carolina Michaëlis was born on 15th March 1851 in Berlin. She lost her mother, Henriette Louise Lobeck, at the tender age of 12. Between 1858-1867 she attended the Luisenschule, a girl’s school in Berlin. Her education was highly influenced by her father, Gustav Michaëlis, a high school maths teacher with research interests in the fields of German Studies, Romance Languages, stenographic, orthographic and phonetic systems, and later Professor of the University of Berlin. Two other prominent personalities played an essential role in her education: the philologist Eduard Matzner and Carl Goldbeck, who taught her at home between the age of 16 and 25. Women were not allowed access to universities in Germany until 1899/1900. Carolina tried, nonetheless, to request access to Arabic studies at the University of Berlin but her request was denied. She also contacted with leading figures of the time, such as Jakob Grimm, Alexander von Humboldt, among others.

Carolina Michaëlis in 1867, Berlin


At the age of sixteen, she published her first small contribution to Romance studies (linguistic-historical notes on Adolph Mussafia’s Eine spanische Darstellung der Crescentiasage, Vienna 1867); shortly afterwards, her explanations of Herder’s Cid (Erläuterungen zu Herder’s ‘Cid’, 1868) appeared. She studied Spanish and Portuguese literary studies and wrote scholarly works in this field as well as on Portuguese folklore, including studies on Romance word creation. Carolina Michaëlis also directed (until her death in 1925) the journal “Lusitânia, Revista de Estudos Portugueses”, one of the most prestigious publications of the time.

Carolina Michaëlis collaborated with her sister Henriette Michaëlis to create the first Michaelis Dictionary in the late 19th century.



Several schools and streets have been named in her honour in both Portugal and Germany. In 1877 Carolina Michaëlis became honorary member of the Berlin Institute of Living Languages. The University of Freiburg was the first to award her the title of Doctor Honoris Causa. This example was followed by the University of Coimbra, in Romance and Germanic Philology, and then, in 1923, by the University of Hamburg. In 2001 Portugal issued a postage stamp to commemorate her 150th anniversary.

Carolina Michaëlis postage stamp




[Literature on Carolina]

  • Kremer, Dieter: ‘D. Carolina Michaëlis de Vasconcellos como lexicógrafa‘, in: Mühlschlegel, Ulrike (Hrsg.) (2004): Dona Carolina Michaëlis e os estudos de Filologia Portuguesa, Frankfurt am Main: TFM (Biblioteca Luso-Brasileira; Bd. 22.)
  • Busse, Winfried: ‘Eine Berliner Romanistin in Portugal. Carolina Michaëlis de Vasconcelos (1851-1925)’, in: Trabant, Jürgen (Hrsg.) (1988): Beiträge zur Geschichte der Romanischen Philologie in Berlin, Berlin: Colloquium, S. 45-56.
  • Kröll, Heinz: “Michaëlis de Vasconcelos, Carolina”. In: Neue Deutsche Biographie (NDB). Band 17, Duncker & Humblot, Berlin 1994, S. 437 f.
  • Delille, Maria Manuela Gouveia: “Carolina Michaelis de Vasconcelos – entre duas pátrias”. In: Henry Thorau (Hrsg.): Heimat in der Fremde / Pátria em Terra Alheia. Akten der 7. Deutsch-Portugiesischen Arbeitsgespräche. Edition Tranvia / Verlag Walter Frey, Berlin 2007, S. 11–30.
  • Mühlschlegel, Ulrike (Hrsg.) (2004): Dona Carolina Michaëlis e os estudos de Filologia Portuguesa, Frankfurt am Main: TFM (Biblioteca Luso-Brasileira; Bd. 22.).