Jump to: navigation, search

Wilson, Horace Hayman


Wilson, Horace Hayman (1786-1860) orientalist, a writer, numismatist, professor at Oxford and a librarian of the India Office. Educated in Soho Square, London, and St Thomas's Hospital, Horace Hayman Wilson arrived in Calcutta in 1808 and joined the east india company's Medical Service. But soon he left medical career and joined Calcutta Mint as its Assay Master, the post that he held until he left India in 1832. As an Assay Master Wilson made many reforms in coinage and made considerable contribution to the field of numismatics. But his actual fame rests on his contributions to Orientalism and literary activities, particularly in the field of Sanskrit literature.

charles wilkins and henry thomas colebrooke inspired Wilson in the oriental studies. While studying the subject of coins and coinage as Assay Master Wilson came in contact with them. They initiated him to the study of Sanskrit. Within a very short time he acquired a fair knowledge of Sanskrit and eventually far surpassed his mentor Colebrooke in digging Sanskrit, the venerable source of Indian languages. He made an instant name in the world of Orientalism by translating Kalidas's Meghduta (1813). For a year he went to Benares (1820) and studied Sanskrit with the most reputed pundits there. There he discovered many texts of ancient dramas in Sanskrit. Based on Benares researches he produced his monumental works, Sanskrit English Dictionary (1819) and the Theatre of the Hindus (1820). His Religious Sects of the Hindus describes the social organisations, customs and social institutions of the Hindus. Wilson translated Dasakumara Charita, Mahabharata, Rig-Veda, Visnu Purana and contributed numerous articles on orientalism to contemporary scientific journals including those of the Asiatic Society of Bengal and Royal Asiatic Society.

At the end of 1832 Wilson left India to become the Boden Professor at Oxford. An Assay Master of Calcutta Mint became straightway a professor at Oxford, which indicates his height of reputation as an oriental scholar. At Oxford Wilson published a number of seminal works, which include Lectures on the Religious and Philosophical Systems of the Hindus (1840), Ariana Antiqua (a Sanskrit Grammar) and A Historical Account of the Burmese War. Among his edited works include second edition of Mill's History of British India, and second edition of Macnaghten's Hindu Law. Besides Sanskrit Wilson was proficient in Bangla, Persian, Arabic and Hindustani. His knowledge in all these languages and in the local institutions have been made manifest in his Glossary of Judicial and Revenue Terms (1855) which is a standard reference for scholars, lawyers and administrators even to day.

Wilson made outstanding contributions as an organiser of knowledge. With short intervals he was secretary to the Asiatic Society of Bengal from 1811 to 1832. He also served the Royal Asiatic Society as its director from 1837 to his death. After the death of Sir Charles Wilkins, one of his gurus, in 1836 Wilson was invited to succeed him in the post of Librarian at the India House, a covetous office that carried with it the duties of Oriental Visitor at haileybury college. However, Wilson's new assignment did not terminate his professorial position at Oxford. He lectured there consecutively three weeks three times a year. [Sirajul Islam]