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Monier-Williams, Sir Monier

MONIER-WILLIAMS, SIR MONIER (1819-1899), British orientalist, son of Colonel Monier- Williams, surveyor-general in the Bombay presidency, was born at Bombay on the 12th of November 1819. He, matriculated at Oxford from Balliol College in 1837, but left the university on receiving in 1839 a nomination for the East India Company's civil service, and was completing his course of training at Haileybury when the entreaties of his mother, who had lost a son in India, prevailed upon him to relinquish his nomination and return to Oxford. As Balliol was full, he entered University College and, devoting himself to the study of Sanskrit, he gained the Boden scholarship in 1843. After taking his degree he was appointed professor of Sanskrit, Persian and Hindustani at Haileybury, where he remained until the abolition of the college upon the transfer of the government of India from the Company to the Crown. He taught oriental languages at Cheltenham for ten years, and in 1860 was elected Boden professor of Sanskrit at Oxford after a contest with Professor Max Muller (</..), which attracted great public interest and severe criticism, the motive of the nonresident voters, whose suffrages turned the scale, being notoriously not so much to put Monier- Williams in as to keep Max Muller out. Although, however, far inferior to his rival in versatility and literary talent, Monier- Williams was in no way inferior in the special field of Sanskrit, and did himself and his professorship much honour by a succession of excellent works, among which may especially be named his Sanskrit-English and EnglishSanskrit dictionaries; his Indian Wisdom (1875), an anthology from Sanskrit literature; and his translation of Sakuntala (1853). In his later years he was especially attracted by the subject of the native religions of India, and wrote popular works on Brahmanism, Buddhism and Hinduism. His principal undertaking, however, was the foundation of the Indian Institute at Oxford, which owes its existence entirely to him. He brought the project before the university in May 1875, and in that year and the following, and again in 1883, visited India to solicit the moral and financial support of the native princes and other leading men. Lord Brassey came to his aid with a donation of 9000, and in November 1880 the institute was adopted by the university, but the purchase of a site and the erection of a building were left to the professor. Upwards of 30,000 was eventually collected; the prince of Wales, in memory of his visit to India, laid the foundation stone in May 1883; and the edifice, erected in three instalments, was finally completed in 1896. Ere this, failing health had compelled Monier-Williams to withdraw from the active duties of his professorship, which were discharged by the deputy-professor, Dr A. Macdonell, who afterwards succeeded him. He continued, nevertheless, to work upon Sanskrit philology until his death at Cannes on the nth of April 1899. He had been knighted in 1886, and was made K.C.I.E. in 1889, when he adopted his Christian name of Monitr as an additional surname.

Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)

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