Skip to content

Walter de Gruyter Foundation

The Walter de Gruyter Foundation is a nonprofit organization that promotes research and scholarship, with a focus on the humanities. It is named after Walter de Gruyter (1862–1923), an inquisitive and open-minded publisher, who was committed to disseminating new knowledge. Bringing together one hundred years of tradition and change, Walter de Gruyter built a modern publishing house devoted to scholarly works. All along, he was guided by the belief that a publishing house had to be strong in order to be “fruitful for scholarship”.

In 2006, three granddaughters of Walter de Gruyter co-founded the Walter de Gruyter Foundation to continue his legacy, who besides being a successful publisher was also a socially engaged benefactor. The majority of the foundation's endowment comes from a 10% share in the Walter de Gruyter company.


The De Gruyter Foundation consists of its board of trustees – comprising the foundation’s principals along with De Gruyter’s advisory board members Georg-Martin Cram, Christoph Seils, and Rüdiger Gebauer – and its executive board, led by Petra Schmitt.


According to its charter, the mission of the foundation is to promote research and scholarship. Specifically, this includes:

  • funding research in the humanities;
  • providing scholarships for promising young associates in academic publishing;
  • awarding prizes for outstanding academic achievement in the humanities; and
  • donating books to academic libraries abroad.

The foundation funds five to ten projects each year, with grants ranging from 1,000 to 10,000 euros. The board of trustees meets twice a year to make funding decisions. In most cases, grants are given on a one-off basis. The foundation does not fund personnel costs, printing costs, and jubilees. There is no legal right to funding from the foundation.

Walter de Gruyter and his publishing house

Walter de Gruyter was a lover of books, an enthusiastic supporter of new ideas, and a socially engaged benefactor. Born in Duisburg to a coal wholesaler, he moved to Berlin and in 1897, began to build a scholarly publishing house.

The roots of the Walter de Gruyter company go back to 1749. In that year, Frederick the Great granted the Königliche Realschule the right to open a bookstore and “to publish good and useful books.” The school’s press eventually became the Georg Reimer Verlag. Walter De Gruyter took a position with Georg Reimer and by the age of 35, he had become the sole proprietor of a hundred-year-old company known for publishing the works of German romantics such as Johann Gottlieb Fichte, Friedrich Schleiermacher, and Heinrich von Kleist. De Gruyter later acquired four other publishing houses – Göschen, Guttentag, Trübner, and Veit – and in 1919, merged them into one: Vereinigung wissenschaftlicher Verleger Walter de Gruyter & Co., located on Genthiner Straße, Berlin.

The publishing houses that Walter de Gruyter acquired, specialized in philosophy, theology, German literature, medicine, mathematics, engineering, law, political science, and the natural sciences. Many of the classics for which De Gruyter is known today go back to those early days. These include the Pschyrembel Klinisches Wörterbuch (Pschyrembel Clinical Dictionary), the Crelle Journal für die reine und angewandte Mathematik (Crelle Journal for Pure and Applied Mathematics), and Kluges Etymologisches Wörterbuch (Kluges Etymological Dictionary). By the time he died, in 1923, Walter de Gruyter had created one of the largest and most modern publishing houses in Europe.

In recent years, digitization and internationalization have posed new challenges for academic publishers. Nevertheless, De Gruyter remains committed to the ideas of its founder and continues to be a family-owned company. In 2006, the Walter de Gruyter Foundation joined the publishing firm’s small circle of principals.

Funded projects

Between 2006 and 2018, the Walter de Gruyter Foundation funded some 130 projects, including:

  • The Walter de Gruyter Prize of the Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of the Sciences and Humanities (biennially)
  • The media prizes of the German Mathematical Society (biennially)
  • The De Gruyter European Librarianship Study Grant for the American Library Association (annually)
  • Walter de Gruyter Seminar of the Mommsen Society (annually)
  • From 2011 to 2016, Angelika Königseder received a grant to study the Walter de Gruyter company during the National Socialist era. Her work appeared in 2016 with Mohr Siebeck Verlag under the title Walter de Gruyter – Ein Wissenschaftsverlag im Nationalsozialismus.

Some successful grant applicants and their projects:

  • 2007 - Frank Lichtenberk, “A Grammar of Toqabaqita”
  • 2008 - Michael Borgolte, “Day of the Middle Ages”
  • 2009 - Detlef Bluhm, expert digitalization conference
  • 2010 - Hermann Spiekermann, preparation of lemma lists for theology
  • 2010 - Barbara Schneider-Kempf, Berlin State Library, Schleiermacher’s manuscripts
  • 2011 - Wolfgang Zwickel, University of Mainz, digitalization of a large collection of images based on the Bible
  • 2011 - Gregor Kalivoda, preliminary study on the systematic foundations of rhetoric as a modern communication science
  • 2012 - Günter Holtus, University of Göttingen, a funded staff position for the project “Romance Bibliography”
  • 2013 - Germany Society for Linguistics (DGfS), 14 travel grants for its annual conference in March
  • 2016 - Monika Wolting, book donations for the University of Wrocław
  • 2016 - Johannes Hein, grant for the ConSOLE XXV conference, printing of posters and abstracts
  • 2018 - HU Berlin, Germany scholarship
  • 2018 - Hanin Hannouch, research project for colonial photography

Grant applications

Grant applications should be addressed to the foundation’s executive board and contain the following information:

  • Name and address of the applicant
  • A short summary of the project (no more than two pages)
  • Information on total costs along with other donor funding
  • Letters of recommendation (if applicable)


Petra Schmitt
De Gruyter Foundation
Genthiner Straße 13
10785 Berlin


Learn More About De Gruyter

Downloaded on 23.2.2024 from
Scroll to top button