In Memoriam


Hans Jacob (Ya'akov) Polotsky was born in Zurich in 1905. His academic studies began in Germany, where he studied Egyptology and Semitic languages at the universities of Berlin and Göttingen. In 1929, he received his Ph.D. degree for the dissertation Zu den Inschriften der 11. Dynastie. His work in the Septuagint project (1926-30) later led him to research Coptic Texts in Berlin, where he edited Coptic Manichaean texts from 1930 to 1934 in collaboration with the Coptologist and Church historian Carl Schmidt.

After the rise of Nazism, Polotsky left Germany. In 1935, He moved to mandatory Palestine and joined the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, which had been established only a decade earlier. There, he founded the university’s linguistics department and the Department of Egyptian, receiving professorship in 1948. His area of expertise included linguistics of Egyptian-Coptic, of Semitic languages and of Indo-European and Turkic languages. Polotsky supervised graduate students in Egyptian and Semitic languages. Many of his students would become world famous scholars, studying different aspects of his wide variety of expertise, including Miriam Lichtheim, Sarah Groll, Ariel Shisha-Halevy, Mordechai Gilula, Nili Shupak, Gideon Goldenberg and others. 

Polotsky served as a guest professor in institutions around the world, including Chicago Oriental Institute (1952), Brown University (1959/1960), Copenhagen (1967/68), Yale (1985) and Berlin (1990), he recieved the gold Lidzbarski medal of the Deutsche Morgenländische Gesellschaft, and was awarded several honorary doctorates and membership in the British, Danish, and Dutch academies. Polotsky served as dean of the Faculty of Humanities between 1954 and 1959, and was selected as a member of Israeli Academy of Sciences (since 1959) and the Hebrew Language Academy. Some of the prizes he was awarded are the Rothschild Prize (1962), the Israel Award (Pras Israel, 1966) and the Harvey prize (1982) for "Contribution to the study of the languages of the Middle East leading to deeper insight into the cultural mores of its peoples."   

Hans Jacob Polotsky (1905-1991): Biographical sketches

Ullendorff, Edward. 1994. H. J. Polotsky (1905-1991): Linguistic Genius. Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society 4(1): 3-13.
Retrieved from

Shisha-Halevy, Ariel. 1992. "In Memoriam Hans Jakob Polotsky." Orientalia 61: 208–213.
Available at

Shisha-Halevy, Ariel. 2006. "H. J. Polotsky Structuralist", in: After Polotsky: Proceedings of the Colloquium, Bad Honnef, September 2005Lingua Aegyptia 14, 1-8.

Shisha-Halevy, Ariel & Gideon Goldenberg. 2007. "Polotsky", in: H. Stammerjohann (ed.) Lexicon Grammaticorum, 
A bio-bibliographical companion to the history of linguistics
Berlin, Boston: Max Niemeyer Verlag, 1187-1191. 

Erdal, Marcel. 1994. "Hans Jakob Polotsky (1905-1991) : An appreciation." Mediterranean language review 8: 1-9.

Hopkins, Simon. 1992/3. "H.J. Polotsky 1905-1991", dans Rassegna di Studi Etiopici 34: 115-125.

Osing, Jürgen . 1993. "Hans Jakob Polotsky: 13. September 1905 - 10. August 1991." Zeitschrift für ägyptische Sprache und Altertumskunde 120/1,  iii-v.

Shivtiel, Ariel. 1994. "Polotsky Hans (Hayyim) Jacob (1905-91)", in: The encyclopedia of language and linguistics. Oxford: Pergamon, vol. 6, p. 3226-3227.

Schenkel, Wolfgang. 2012. "Polotsky, Hans Jakob" in: P. Kuhlmann, & H. Schneider (eds.), Geschichte der Alterumswissenschaften.
Biographisches Lexikon
(Der neue Pauly - Supplemente ; Bd. 6), Stuttgart; Weimar, 1005-1006.
stable link:

Voigt, Rainer.

Polotsky and Mordechai Gilula.


Volumes in honour and in memory of Hans Jacob Polotsky

Image result for Egyptian, Semitic and general grammar  Image result for Studies Presented to Hans Jakob Polotsky.

2009. Egyptian, Semitic and general grammar : Studies in memory of H. J. Polotsky. Jerusalem: Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities. Edited by Gideon Goldenberg and Ariel Shisha-Halevy.  =  Proceedings of the Workshop in Memory of H. J. Polotsky: Ancient Egyptian, Neo-Semitic, Methods in Linguistics (Jerusalem, Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities, July 8th,  2001). Press for table of contents. 

Groll, Sarah I., Shalom M Paul, Marcel Sigrist and Krzysztof Modras. (Eds.) 2000. The Art of Love Lyrics: In Memory of Bernard Couroyer, OP and Hans Jacob Polotsky, First Egyptologists in Jerusalem. Cahiers De La Revue Biblique 49. Belgium: Peeters. 

** الأكاديمية الوطنية الاسرائيلية للعلوم ,האקדמיה הלאומית הישראלית למדעים,  Israel Academy of Science. לזכרו של יעקב פולוצקי. 1994. [In Hebrew- tr. In memory of Yaacov Polotsky.]

Polotsky, Hans Jakob, Christopher Eyre, Friedrich Junge,  M. A Leahy, and J. D. Ray. Lingua Sapientissima : A Seminar in Honour of H.J. Polotsky Organised by the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge and the Faculty of Oriental Studies in 1984. Glanville
Lecture ; 1984. Cambridge: Cambridge University, Faculty of Oriental Studies, 1987.

Polotsky, Hans Jakob, and Dwight W. Young. (Eds.) 1981. Studies Presented to Hans Jakob Polotsky. East Gloucester, Mass: Pirtle & Polson.


Additional related publications

Ullendorff, Edward. 1992. H.J. Polotsky (1905-1991): Ausgewählte Briefe. Äthiopistische Forschungen, Band 34. Stuttgart: Franz Steiner Verlag. 

polotsky street sign


Link to Historical articles about polotsky [HEBREW] at the Israel National Library digital collection. 

Link to Polotsky's page at the Israeli Academy of Sciences:

A biographical interview with Polotsky [in hebrew]:


polotsky news