1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Wilson, Horace Hayman

WILSON, HORACE HAYMAN (1786–1860), English orientalist, was born in London on the 26th of September 1786. He studied medicine at St Thomas's Hospital, and went out to India in 1808 as assistant-surgeon on the Bengal establishment of the British East India Company. His knowledge of metallurgy caused him to be attached to the mint at Calcutta, where he was for a time associated with John Leyden. He became deeply interested in the ancient language and literature of India, and by the recommendation of Henry Thomas Colebrooke, he was in 1811 appointed secretary to the Asiatic Society of Bengal. In 1813 he published the Sanskrit text—with a graceful, if somewhat free, translation in English rhymed verse—of Kālidāsa's charming lyrical poem, the Meghadūta, or Cloud-Messenger. He prepared the first Sanskrit-English Dictionary (1819) from materials compiled by native scholars, supplemented by his own researches. This work was only superseded by the Sanskritwörterbuch (1853–1876) of R. von Roth and Otto von Böhtlingk, who expressed their obligations to Wilson in the preface to their great work. Wilson published in 1827 Select Specimens of the Theatre of the Hindus, which contained a very full survey of the Indian drama, translations of six complete plays and short accounts of twenty-three others. His Mackenzie Collection (1828) is a descriptive catalogue of the extensive collection of Oriental, especially South Indian, MSS. and antiquities made by Colonel Colin Mackenzie, now deposited partly in the India Office, London, and partly at Madras. He also wrote a Historical Sketch of the First Burmese War, with Documents, Political and Geographical (1827), a Review of the External Commerce of Bengal from 1813 to 1828 (1830) and a History of British India from 1805 to 1835, in continuation of Mill's History (1844–1848). He acted for many years as secretary to the committee of public instruction, and superintended the studies of the Sanskrit College in Calcutta. He was one of the staunchest opponents of the proposal that English should be made the sole medium of instruction in native schools, and became for a time the object of bitter attacks. In 1832 the university of Oxford selected Dr Wilson to be the first occupant of the newly founded Boden chair of Sanskrit, and in 1836 he was appointed librarian to the East India Company. He was an original member of the Royal Asiatic Society, of which he was director from 1837 up to the time of his death, which took place in London on the 8th of May 1860.

A full list of Wilson’s works may be found in an Annual Report of the Asiatic Society for 1860. A considerable number of Sanskrit MSS. (540 vols.) collected by Wilson in India are now in the Bodleian library.