1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Birdwood, Sir George Christopher Molesworth

1911 Encyclopædia Britannica, Volume 3
Birdwood, Sir George Christopher Molesworth

BIRDWOOD, SIR GEORGE CHRISTOPHER MOLESWORTH (1832-  ), Anglo-Indian official and writer, son of General Christopher Birdwood, was born at Belgaum, in the Bombay presidency, on the 8th of December 1832. He was educated at Plymouth grammar-school and Edinburgh University, where he took his M.D. degree. Entering the Bombay Medical Service in 1854, he served in the Persian War of 1856-57, and subsequently became professor at the Grant Medical College, registrar of the university, curator of the museum, and sheriff at Bombay, besides acting as secretary of the Asiatic and Horticultural societies. His work on the Economic Vegetable Products of the Bombay Presidency reached its twelfth edition in 1868. He interested himself prominently also in the municipal life of the city, where he acquired great influence and popularity. He was obliged by ill-health in 1868 to return to England, where he entered the revenue and statistics department of the India Office (1871-1902). Whilst engaged there he published important volumes on the industrial arts of India, the ancient records of the India Office, and the first letter-book of the East India Company. He devoted much time and energy to the encouragement of Indian art, on various aspects of which he wrote valuable monographs, and his name was identified with the representation of India at all the principal international exhibitions from 1857 to 1901. (See Journal of Indian Art, vol. viii. “The Life and Work of Sir George Birdwood.”) His researches on the subject of incense (Trans. Linn. Soc. xxvii., 1871; Ency. Brit. 9th ed., “Incense,” 1881; revised for the present edition by him), a good example of his mastery of detail, have made his historical and botanical account of this subject a classic. Nor can his lifelong association with journalism of the best sort be overlooked. From boyhood he was a diligent contributor of special information to magazines and newspapers; in India he helped to convert the Standard into the Times of India, and edited the Bombay Saturday Review; and after his return to London he wrote for the Pall Mall, Athenaeum, Academy, and Times; and with Chenery, the editor of The Times, and others he took the initiative (1882) in celebrating the anniversary of Lord Beaconsfield’s death as “Primrose Day” (April 19). He kept up his connexion with India by constant contributions to the Indian press; and his long friendships with Indian princes and the leading educated native Indians made his intimate knowledge of the country of peculiar value in the handling of the problems of the Indian empire. In 1887 he was created a K.C.I.E.; and, besides being given his LL.D. degree by Cambridge, he was also made an officer of the Legion of Honour and a laureate of the French Academy.