"Their minds should early gain the lift, which the true hope of brilliant deeds gives."
In 1622, Johan Skytte donated land and property to Uppsala University in order to establish a professorship in Eloquentia et Politices [Latin: eloquence and politices]. Europe was at war and Sweden was one of the continent's super powers. Johan Skytte realized that Sweden would need a whole new class of of civil servants, trained in the art of political negotiation and eloquence, to consolidate her newly-found place on the political map of Europe.
Johan Skytte, born to a middle-class merchant and mayor of a small Swedish town, quickly rose through the echelons of power to become one of the most influential Swedish statesmen of the 17th Century. He obtained his Master’s degree from Marburg University in Germany and went on to become a tutor of the Crown Prince, at that time a remarkable honour for someone with a middle-class background. He was swiftly promoted to join the ranks of the nobles and served as a councilor to the Crown on many occasions.
During Skytte’s life, Sweden emerged as a great power, and it thus became of fundamental importance to improve her educational system. On this front, Skytte came to play a central role. He was a deeply learned person, a master in eloquence and a person of great interest and skill in didactics and made it his personal mission to improve the Swedish educational system. In 1622, he was appointed vice-chancellor of Uppsala University, an institutions he helped to modernise. The same year, he donated a considerable sum to the University to set up a professorship in Political Science and Eloquence in a belief that teaching these in concord would help Sweden further her political power. His educational technique was built on inspiration rather than demands, which was very progressive for the period. In the statues of the university of 1626, it firmly stated what the education should imply for the students: "Their minds should early gain the lift, which the true hope of brilliant deeds gives."
In 1629, Johan Skytte was appointed Governor General of the Baltic provinces of Livonia and Karelia and continued with his educational mission there. In 1631, he helped to establish and later chair the University of Tartu, which became the second oldest University in Sweden.
Johan Skytte’s involvement in education was not only limited to University level. He also helped to or directly established several ordinary schools, for instance a school in Lycksele in Northern Sweden in 1631 or the first rural school in Sweden in Ålem in 1637. The Royal Skytte Society in Umeå, established in 1956, was named after Johan Skytte in appreciation of his impact on education in the northern parts of Sweden.
The Johan Skytte Foundation
Over the years, the donation which was intended to be independent has become part of Uppsala University’s collective assets and funds. In 1979, the eleventh patron of the Skytte Foundation, Count Nils-Axel Mörner, demanded and campaigned for the restoration of an independent foundation that would guard Johan Skytte’s assets. This request was granted and the Skytte Foundation began its new chapter.
The restoration of the foundation’s independence saw a considerable amount of funds and assets returned under the management of the foundation. The newly appointed board agreed that the assets should be used in a wise and constructive manner, and – in one way or another, in the memory of Johan Skytte.
In 1994, the idea of a Prize in political science was born, a brainchild of the patron of the foundation, Nils-Axel Mörner and then Johan Skytte Professor, Leif Lewin. The prize grew in prestige over the years and has been likened to the Nobel Prizes in terms of importance and role-model potential.
In addition to the Skytte Prize, the Foundation runs its own publishing house. Its most recent publication is an excellent resource mapping the histories of Johan Skytte, his donation and 20 Skytte Prize Winners. The Foundation also sponsors various academic events.
The Johan Skytte Foundation aims to preserve and further the educational legacy of Johan Skytte. The Johan Skytte Prize aspires to identify the most valuable contributions to Political Science and thus help to further the discipline and encourage innovative research within the field. The foundation is governed by a 6-strong board.
Skyteanum, located in central Uppsala is still the residence of the Johan Skytte Professor of Eloquence and Politics.
Count Jonas Mörner
Patron of the Skytte Foundation
Li Bennich-Björkman, chair
Johan Skytte Professor in Political Science and Eloquence, Uppsala University
Vice Chancellor of Uppsala University
Jacob von Ehrenheim