Gerhard F. Straßer
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Gerhard F. Straßer

Emeritus Professor of German and Comparative Literature



  1. .Ph.D. in Comparative Literature, Brown University, Providence, Rhode Island, 1974
  2. .Fulbright Lecturership at Trinity College, Hartford, CT, 1967-68
  3. .„Pädagogisches Staatsexamen für das Lehramt an Gymnasien,“ Regensburg, Germany, 1967
  4. .„Wissenschaftliches Staatsexamen für das Lehramt an Gymnasien,“ Munich, 1965
  5. .Studies at the Universities of Munich and Grenoble, 1959-65
  6. .Fulbright Scholarship at Rhodes College, Memphis, TN, 1960-61
  7. .“Abitur” (with distinction), Landshut, Germany, 1959


Dr. Strasser’s fields of specialization include the history of universal languages in the Early Modern Period; early cryptology; the history of the plague; (pseudo-)hieroglyphics; emblematics; travel accounts, and 17th-century polyhistors such as Athanasius Kircher or Johann Joachim Becher.

After teaching at Northwestern University from 1973 to 1979 and at Penn State in the Departments of Germanic & Slavic Languages & Literatures and in Comparative Literature, Dr. Strasser retired in 2004 after 25 years at Penn State as Professor emeritus and returned to Germany.

Dr. Strasser's publications include the 1988  Lingua Universalis:  Kryptologie und Theorie der Universalsprachen im 16. und 17. Jahrhundert, which has become a standard work in the field; Emblematik und Mnemonik der Frühen Neuzeit im Zusammenspiel: Johannes Buno und Johann Justus Winckelmann (2000); and co-edited books, such as Die Domänen des Emblems:  Außerliterarische Anwendungen der Emblematik (with Mara R. Wade, 2004).  Electronic publications include an expanded version of a symposium lecture delivered at the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek discussing “Ansätze zu internationaler Verständigung durch konstruierte Sprachen“, URL: (2013)In 2018 Dr. Strasser, with Marie-Madeleine Fragonard, co-published the second, greatly expanded French edition of a 17th-century French manuscript that he had first produced electronically in English in 2012 at the Herzog August Bibliothek (URL: The new, French edition is titled, Le Livre d'Enigmes de Jacques de Fonteny:  Manuscrit d'une série de sonnets para-emblématiques illustrés du début du XVIIe siècle.  Wolfenbütteler Digitale Editionen, XV, 2018 (URL:   In his retirement he co-organized a symposium at the Herzog August Bibliothek with Dr. Thomas Stäcker on "Bibliotheken und ihre Nutzer, 1650-1850" (2007) and has written major articles, which include "The Rise of Cryptology in the European Renaissance" in The History of Information Security: A Comprehensive Handbook (2007) or “Von der Lingua Adamica zur Lingua universalis“ in Diskurse der Gelehrtenkultur in der Frühen Neuzeit (2011). 

Dr. Strasser continues to present his ongoing research at international conferences, such as materials from the history of cryptology at NSA (2011, 2013) or at the Slovak Academy of Sciences (2017); universal languages (Munich; Ankara; Vienna); emblematics (Nancy, 2017); the plague (Mersin, Turkey) or on the Amish (Ankara; Hamburg). In the summer of 2018 he co-organized the third international conference on cryptology (HistoCrypt 2018) at the University of Uppsala, Sweden.       

In the fall of 2012, Dr. Strasser was given the College of the Liberal Arts Emeritus Distinction Award.