1902 Encyclopedia > John Muir, Sanskrit scholar

John Muir
Sanskrit scholar

JOHN MUIR (1810-1882), Sanskrit scholar, was born on 5th February 1810 in Glasgow, where his father, William Muir, was a merchant. He was educated at the grammar school of Irvine, the university of Glasgow, and the East India Company’s college at Haileybury. He went to India in 1828, and served with distinction in various offices, as assistance secretary to the board of revenue, Allahabad, as magistrate and collector at Azimgarh, as principal of the Victoria College, Benares, and as civil and session judge at Futterhpoor.

He was throughout remarkable for his zeal in cultivating and encouraging the study of Sanskrit, in finding methods and furthering schemes for the enlightment and amelioration of the Hindus. He was persuaded that the only was in which they could escape from the tyranny of caste, with all its attendant evils, was by being made to know how they had become what they were, and also how the freer and more civilized Western peoples believed and lived. He worked assiduously at the organization and development of the higher education of India, and endeavoured to stimulate the learned classes to the study of their own most ancient literature, and of the religious and philosophical literature of the West. He did while in India much work in both departments, and was the occasion of still more being done both by Hindus and Europeans.

In 1853 he retired from the service and settled in Edinburgh, where he may be said to have continued under more favourable conditions his Indian labours. In 1862 he endowed the chair of Sanskrit in the university of Edinburgh, and was the main agent in founding the Shaw fellowship in mental philosophy. He was a D.C.L. of Oxford, LL.D. of Edinburgh, and Ph. D. of Bonn. He died 7th March 1882.

In 1858 appeared vol. i. of his Original Sanskrit Texts (2d ed. 1868); it was on the origin of caste, an inquiry intended to show that it did not exist in the Vedic age. Vol. ii (1st ed. 1860, 2d 1871) was concerned with the origin and racial affinities of the Hindus, exhibiting all the then available evidences of their connexion, their linguistic, social, and political kinship, with the other branches of the Indo-European stock. Vol. iii. (1st ed., 1861, 2d 1868) was on the Vedas, a full and exhaustive inquiry as to the ideas of their origin, authority, and inspiration held both by the Vedic and later Indian writers. Vol. iv. (1st ed. 1863, 2d 1873) was a comparison of the Vedic with the later representations of the principal Indian deities, an exhibition of the process by which three gods hardly known to the Vedic hymns became the deities of the former Hindu Trimurti. Vol. v. (1870) was on the Vedic mythology. These texts form still our most exhaustive work on the Vedic age, and show better than any others the point from which the peculiar religious and political development of India started.

Dr. Muir was also the author of a volume of Metrical Translations from the Sanskrit, an anonymous work on Inspiration, several works in Sanskrit, and many essays in the Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society and elsewhere.

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