Poul Christian Vilhelm Madsen Milthers (1865-1962)

State geologist 1904-35, student at Askov Folk High School 1886-88, MSc Polytechnical College 1894, specialist in the Danish Ice-Age landscape, chairman of the Folk High School Society in Copenhagen 1913-31.

Vilhelm Milthers was one of the few professional natural scientists within the Grundtvigian camp. He advocated the teaching of evolutionary geology and biology at the folk high schools in the first decades of the twentieth century, and he defended modern science in the liberal Grundtvigian mouthpiece Højskolebladet [The High School Magazine]. In Milthers’s view, science and faith were two completely different aspects of life that should not be mixed up. Therefore any attempt to reconcile the biblical history of creation and modern science was dubious. Especially when Christian apologetics applied scientific theories that later were undermined by new developments within science. Instead, Milthers argued, a more reasonable strategy was to make a clear distinction between science and religion. This position was in line with the philosopher Rasmus Nielsen and the neo-Grundtvigian stance widely accepted among liberal Grundtvigians around 1900. In 1914, he contributed to Højskolebladet’s special issue on evolution and engaged in polemics with the anti-Darwinian folk high school teacher Valdemar Bennike, who did not accept human evolution and defended progressive creationism. 

Hans Henrik Hjermitslev

Return to list of biographies