William Jones

William Jones – An English Philologist

“Archaeological and historical pursuits in India started with the efforts of Sir William Jones, who put together a group of antiquarians to form the Asiatic Society on 15th January 1784 in Calcutta. The efforts put by Jones had a long backing, of enthusiasts and dilettantes like Tavernier, Finch and Bernier, Thevenot, Careri, Fryer, Ovington, Hamilton, Anquetil du Perron, Joseph Tieffenthaler, William Chamber, to name a few, who carried out survey of monuments in various parts of India, earlier. This endeavor put forward by Jones culminated in the publication of a periodical journal named, Asiatic Researches started in 1788. The journal brought to light the researches, surveys carried out by the society to make the public aware of the antiquarian wealth of India . The continuing fieldwork soon brought to light many antiquities and other remains which were later housed in a museum in 1814.”

These are the statements about Sir William Jones found  in the official web site of Archaeological Survey of India.


Life story

William Jones was born on September 28, 1746, in London, England. His father (also named Sir William Jones) was a famous mathematician.  William Jones was a linguistic prodigy, learning Greek, Latin, Persian, Arabic, and the basics of Chinese at an early age. By the end of his life he knew thirteen languages thoroughly and another twenty-eight reasonably well.

Jones arrived in India in September 1783 a  judge in the Supreme Court in Calcutta. he realized that India had much to offer to the world in the sciences and the arts, and that the discovery of her rich past and culture could not be achieved by himself. He discussed with his colleagues and established the “Asiatic Society” on 15th January 1784,  and started the journal Asiatic Researches. ones realized that it was the East, which held the secrets of early history and civilization of man; and that unless the East was know, the history of man could not be written.

His passion for Sanskrit and Indian Culture

Jones is best known today for  classical the observation that Sanskrit  bore a certain resemblance to classical Greek and Latin. In The Sanskrit Language (1786) he suggested that all three languages had a common root. Jones devised the system of transliteration and managed to translate numerous works into English, among others the Laws of Manu(Manusmriti),  Kalidasa’s Abhiknana ShakuntalaRitu Samhara, and Jayadeva’s Gita Govinda. He also compiled a digest o Hindu and Mahommedan law, Institutes of Hindu Law, or the Ordinances of Manu (1794); Mohammedan Law of Succession to Property of Intestates (1792), and his Mohammedan Law of Inheritance (1792) .  Jones was the first westerner who studied classical Indian Music,  classified Indian Plants and animals.

Thanks to the efforts of William Jones after him many western universities founded chairs in Sanskrit.

On 27th April 1794 has passed away because of an inflammation of liver at the age of  forty eight years.

For More Details:

  1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Jones_(philologist)
  2. http://www.kamat.com › Timeless Theater › People of India
  3. http://asiaticsocietycal.com/history/index.htm
  4. http://asi.nic.in/asi_aboutus_history.asp

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