The first great collector in Scandinavia and a phenomenal figure in North
European intellectual history, Ole Worm (1588-1654) has been claimed as a local
founding father for several modern disciplines, including archeology, useology,
philology, ethnology, and folklore. A professor of medicine at the University of Copenhagen, he set up a famous museum that came to form the basis for
Denmark’s National Museum, he engineered pioneering ethnological questionnaire
surveys of the Danish kingdom, he wrote a monumental work on runes, and
collected and published medieval folklore and literature. This article analyzes the life and work of Ole Worm in order to clarify the emergence of the scholar as a third power in Europe, alongside the clergy and the nobility, and to shed light on notions of virtue and virtuosity in the late Renaissance.