Thomas Rhys Davids

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Thomas William Rhys Davids
Born(1843-05-12)12 May 1843
Colchester, Essex, England
Died27 December 1922(1922-12-27) (aged 79)
Chipstead, Surrey, England
Nationality British
Occupation Pāli language
Known forFounder of the Pāli Text Society.
One of the first translations of early Buddhist texts.

Thomas William Rhys Davids, FBA [1] (12 May 1843 – 27 December 1922) was a British scholar of the Pāli language and founder of the Pāli Text Society. He took an active part in founding the British Academy and London School for Oriental Studies.

Fellow of the British Academy award granted by the British Academy to leading academics for their distinction in the humanities and social sciences

Fellowship of the British Academy (FBA) is an award granted by the British Academy to leading academics for their distinction in the humanities and social sciences. There are three kinds of fellowship:

  1. Fellows, for scholars resident in the United Kingdom
  2. Corresponding Fellows, for scholars not resident in the UK
  3. Honorary Fellows, an honorary academic title
United Kingdom Country in Europe

The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, commonly known as the United Kingdom (UK) or Britain, is a sovereign country located off the north-western coast of the European mainland. The United Kingdom includes the island of Great Britain, the north-eastern part of the island of Ireland, and many smaller islands. Northern Ireland is the only part of the United Kingdom that shares a land border with another sovereign state, the Republic of Ireland. Apart from this land border, the United Kingdom is surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean, with the North Sea to the east, the English Channel to the south and the Celtic Sea to the south-west, giving it the 12th-longest coastline in the world. The Irish Sea lies between Great Britain and Ireland. The United Kingdom's 242,500 square kilometres (93,600 sq mi) were home to an estimated 66.0 million inhabitants in 2017.

British Academy National academy of humanities and social sciences

The British Academy is the United Kingdom's national academy for the humanities and the social sciences. It was established in 1902 and received its royal charter in the same year. It is now a fellowship of more than 1,000 leading scholars spanning all disciplines across the humanities and social sciences and a funding body for research projects across the United Kingdom. The academy is a self-governing and independent registered charity, based at 10–11 Carlton House Terrace in London.

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Early life and education

Thomas William Rhys Davids was born in England, at Colchester in Essex, the eldest son of a Congregational clergyman [2] from Wales, who was affectionately referred to as the Bishop of Essex. His mother, who died at the age of 37 following childbirth, had run the Sunday school at his father's church.

Colchester town in Essex, United Kingdom

Colchester is a historic market town and the largest settlement within the borough of Colchester in the county of Essex. Colchester was the first Roman-founded city in Britain, and Colchester lays claim to be regarded as Britain's oldest recorded town. It was for a time the capital of Roman Britain, and is a member of the Most Ancient European Towns Network.

Essex County of England

Essex is a county in the south-east of England, north-east of London. One of the home counties, it borders Suffolk and Cambridgeshire to the north, Hertfordshire to the west, Kent across the estuary of the River Thames to the south, and London to the south-west. The county town is Chelmsford, the only city in the county. For government statistical purposes Essex is placed in the East of England region.

Deciding on a Civil Service career, Rhys Davids studied Sanskrit under A.F. Stenzler, a distinguished scholar at the University of Breslau. He earned money in Breslau by teaching English.

Sanskrit language of ancient India

Sanskrit is a language of ancient India with a 3,500-year history. It is the primary liturgical language of Hinduism and the predominant language of most works of Hindu philosophy as well as some of the principal texts of Buddhism and Jainism. Sanskrit, in its variants and numerous dialects, was the lingua franca of ancient and medieval India. In the early 1st millennium CE, along with Buddhism and Hinduism, Sanskrit migrated to Southeast Asia, parts of East Asia and Central Asia, emerging as a language of high culture and of local ruling elites in these regions.

Adolf Friedrich Stenzler was a German Indologist born in Wolgast.

English language West Germanic language

English is a West Germanic language that was first spoken in early medieval England and eventually became a global lingua franca. It is named after the Angles, one of the Germanic tribes that migrated to the area of Great Britain that later took their name, as England. Both names derive from Anglia, a peninsula in the Baltic Sea. The language is closely related to Frisian and Low Saxon, and its vocabulary has been significantly influenced by other Germanic languages, particularly Norse, and to a greater extent by Latin and French.

Civil service in Sri Lanka

In 1863 Rhys Davids returned to Britain, and on passing his civil service exams was posted to Sri Lanka (then known as Ceylon). When he was Magistrate of Galle and a case was brought before him involving questions of ecclesiastical law, he first learned of the Pāli language when a document in that language was brought in as evidence.

Sri Lanka Island country in South Asia

Sri Lanka, officially the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka, is an island country in South Asia, located in the Indian Ocean to the southwest of the Bay of Bengal and to the southeast of the Arabian Sea. The island is geographically separated from the Indian subcontinent by the Gulf of Mannar and the Palk Strait. The legislative capital, Sri Jayawardenepura Kotte, is a suburb of the commercial capital and largest city, Colombo.

Galle City in Southern Province, Sri Lanka

Galle is a major city in Sri Lanka, situated on the southwestern tip, 119 km from Colombo. Galle is the administrative capital of Southern Province, Sri Lanka and is the district capital of Galle District.

In 1871 he was posted as Assistant Government Agent of Nuwarakalaviya, where Anuradhapura was the administrative centre. The governor was Sir Hercules Robinson, who had founded the Archaeological Commission in 1868.

Anuradhapura City in North Central Province, Sri Lanka

Anuradhapura is a major city in Sri Lanka. It is the capital city of North Central Province, Sri Lanka and the capital of Anuradhapura District. Anuradhapura is one of the ancient capitals of Sri Lanka, famous for its well-preserved ruins of an ancient Sinhala civilization. It was the third capital of the kingdom of Rajarata, following the kingdoms of Tambapanni and Upatissa Nuwara.

Hercules Robinson, 1st Baron Rosmead 5th Governor of Hong Kong

Hercules George Robert Robinson, 1st Baron Rosmead,, was a British colonial administrator who became the 5th Governor of Hong Kong and subsequently, the 14th Governor of New South Wales, the first Governor of Fiji, and the 8th Governor of New Zealand. From June 1859 until August 1896, he was known as Sir Hercules Robinson.

Rhys Davids became involved with the excavation of the ancient Sinhalese city of Anuradhapura, which had been abandoned after an invasion in 993 CE. He began to collect inscriptions and manuscripts, and from 1870-1872 wrote a series of articles for the Ceylon branch of the Royal Asiatic Society Journal about them. He learned the local language and spent time with the people.

Rhys Davids' civil service career and his residence in Sri Lanka came to an abrupt end. Personal differences with his superior, C. W. Twynham, caused a formal investigation, resulting a tribunal and Rhys Davids' dismissal for misconduct. A number of minor offences had been discovered, as well as grievances concerning fines improperly exacted both from Rhys Davids' subjects and his employees.

Academic career

He then studied for the bar and briefly practised law, though he continued to publish articles about Sri Lankan inscriptions and translations, notably in Max Müller's monumental Sacred Books of the East.

From 1882 to 1904 Rhys Davids was Professor of Pāli at the University of London, a post which carried no fixed salary other than lecture fees.

In 1905 he took up the Chair of Comparative Religion at the University of Manchester.

Rhys Davids attempted to promote Theravada Buddhism and Pāli scholarship in Britain. He actively lobbied the government (in co-operation with the Asiatic Society of Great Britain) to expand funding for the study of Indian languages and literature, using numerous arguments over how this might strengthen the British hold on India. He gave "Historical Lectures" and wrote papers advancing a racial theory of a common "Aryan" ethnicity amongst the peoples of Britain, Sri Lanka, and the Buddha's own clan in ancient times. These were comparable to the racial theories of Max Müller, but were used to a different purpose. Rhys Davids claimed that Britons had a natural, "racial" affinity with Buddhist doctrine. This part of Rhys Davids' career is controversial.

Personal life

In 1894 Rhys Davids married Caroline Augusta Foley, a noted Pāli scholar. Unlike his wife, however, Rhys Davids was a critic and opponent of Theosophy. They had three children. The eldest, Vivien, was involved in the Girl Guide movement and was a friend of Robert Baden-Powell. Their only son, Arthur Rhys Davids, was a Royal Flying Corps 25-victory fighter ace who was killed in World War I.

Rhys Davids died on 27 December 1922 in Chipstead, Surrey.

Works

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References

  1. Lord Chalmers (1923). "Thomas William Rhys Davids". Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland (2): 323–328. JSTOR   25210065.
  2. Ridding, C. Mary; Tin, Pe Maung (1923). "Obituary: Professor T. W. Rhys Davids". Bulletin of the School of Oriental Studies University of London . Cambridge University Press. 3: 201–210. JSTOR   607190.

Sources