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Prinsep, James

PRINSEP, JAMES, was descended from a family of Swiss extraction which hail been some time settled in England. He was born in the year 18U0, and went out to the East Indies at an early age in the service of the East India Company in the Mint department. On his arrival in India he was appointed assaymaster at Benares, where he remained about ten years. Here he collected the materials of his ' Sketches of Benares,' which perhaps give some of the best representations of Indian life yet published. He planned and constructed many works of public utility, and engaged in a valuable scries of statistical inquiries connected with Benares. At this time he wrote an elaborate memoir on the mode of determining accurately the point at which the precious metals fuse, which was published in the 'Philosophical Transactions.' Subsequently he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society. When the Benares mint was abolished, Prinsep was transferred to that at Calcutta. He had previously contributed to the ' Gleanings of Science,' conducted by Capt. Herbert, and on the departure of that gentleman from Calcutta he became the secretary to the physical class of the Asiatic Society, and editor of the ' Gleanings,' which he remodelled in IS32, under the title of the ' Journal of the Asiatic Society,' a work which has contributed in an eminent degree to the extension of every species of information in India. His attention having been directed to the subject of Ractrian coins, he made numerous discoveries which enabled him to fill up the blank left in the history of the successors of Alexander the Great in Bactria, and constructed a nearly unbroken scries of numismatic records, which extended f• J i the Macedonian king to modern times.' On the departure of II. II. Wilson for England in 1832, he became secretary to the Asiatic Society, and ho now began to follow up the steps of Jones, Colebrooke, and Wilson, in the field of Indian antiquities. Meantime In* labours as editor of the ' Journal'were unabated; he was in a great measure the engraver and lithographer for it; and he carried on an extensive correspondence in India and with Europe, besides contributing a number of valuable articles ou a great variety of subjects, especially chemistry, mineralogy, Indian Numismatics, and Indian antiquities. The most interesting of his discoveries is the deciphering of inscriptions which had remained a scaled book to all previous Orientalists, and which are important as connecting the history of India with that of Europe: the name of Antiochus the Great and the mention of his generals as commanding in the north of India,occur in two edicts of Asoka, or Piyadasi, king of India. Under tho weight of these and other labours his health began to break down. It was hoped that a voyage to England would restore him; but after an illness of eighteen months, he died, on the ."-'ml of April, I -- in, in the -loth year of his age. II is case is said to have borne a considerable resemblance to that of Sir Walter Scott. His death has left a blank in the progress of knowledge and civilization in India which will not perhaps be readily filled up. {Delhi Gazette, July 8, 18-10; Proc. Roy. As. Sor., 1840.)

Note - this article incorporates content from The Penny Cyclopaedia of the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge (1840)

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