Missiologist; b. Klein-Landau (Alsace), March 29, 1876; d. Struthof bei Schirmeck (Breuschtal), Jan. 10, 1944. Shortly after Schmidlin was ordained, he turned to the study of history at the University of Freiburg where, in 1901, he took his degree. L. von Pastor invited Schmidlin to Rome to work with him for four years on his History of the Popes. In 1906 he became academic lecturer in the Catholic theological faculty at the University of Strasbourg. A year later he was called to Münster to be the university lecturer on medieval and modern Church history. There he became the father and founder of Catholic missiology. By 1910 he had already been appointed professor of mission science. Subsequently in 1911 he founded the Zeitschrift für Missionswissenschaft. Then in 1914 he became the first ordinary professor of missiology at Münster. Beginning in 1911 he was also the director of the scientific commission of the International Institute for Missiological Research. His Einführung in die Missionswissenschaft (2d ed. Münster 1925) appeared in 1917. This work was followed by Katholische Missionslehre im Grundriss (Catholic Mission Theory, tr. M. Braun, SVD, Techny 1931) in 1919 and Katholische Missionsgeschichte (Catholic Mission History, tr. M. Braun, SVD, Techny 1933) in 1925. All three works are basic and have lost none of their significance. Besides his scientific work, Schmidlin directed the extraordinarily fruitful and effective Catholic Mission Organization that he founded in Germany. A man of outstanding intelligence, brilliant creativity, and unbounded idealism, Schmidlin had all the qualities necessary to become the pioneer in the new field of missiology. His intense spirit led him, to be sure, into much discussion and even controversy both within and outside of the Catholic Church. The national socialist era led to his forced pensioning in 1934, soon to be followed by repeated arrests and imprisonments. Later he was interned in an asylum, and finally he suffered a violent death in the concentration camp at Struthof bei Schirmeck.
Bibliography: His autobiography in Die Religionswissenschaft der Gegenwart in Selbstdarstellungen, v. 3 (Leipzig. 1927) 167–191. k. mÜller, "Joseph Schmidlin: Leben und Werk" in 50 Jahre Katholische Missionswissenschaft in Münster, 1911–1961, ed. j. glazik (Münster 1961) 22–33.