Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Rosen, Friedrich August

ROSEN, FRIEDRICH AUGUST (1805–1837), Sanskrit scholar, son of Friedrich Ballhorn Rosen, a legal writer, was born at Hanover on 2 Sept. 1805. His early education was conducted at the Göttingen Gymnasium, and in 1822 he entered the university of Leipzig, where he abandoned law in favour of oriental studies. Resolving to devote himself specially to Sanskrit, he removed to Berlin in 1824 to enjoy the advantage of Bopp's lectures. The results are partly to be seen in his ‘Corporis radicum Sanscritarum prolusio’ (Berlin, 1826), and its sequel ‘Radices Sanscritæ’ (Berlin, 1827), the originality and importance of which have been fully recognised by later scholars. Rosen's desire for a post in the Prussian legation at Constantinople not being realised, he went in 1827 to Paris to study Semitic languages under Silvestre de Sacy; but he had scarcely settled there when he received an invitation to fill the chair of oriental languages at the recently (1826) founded University College of London, which was opened for study in 1828. For two years he persevered in the uncongenial task of giving practical elementary lessons in Persian, Arabic, and Hindustani to the students at the college. Donaldson says that to Rosen ‘we really owe indirectly the first application of comparative philology to the public teaching of the classical languages, a merit which has been too readily conceded to the Greek and Latin professors, who merely transmitted … information derived from their German colleague’ (New Cratylus, 3rd edit. p. 55). His remarkable linguistic powers had attracted the notice of Henry Thomas Colebrooke [q. v.], by whose advice he afterwards brought out the ‘Algebra of Mohammed ben Musa,’ in Arabic and English, in the publications of the Oriental Translation Fund, in 1831—a singular illustration of versatility. Believing that the connection he was forming with men of learning and influence in London would procure him the means of continuing his researches, he resigned, in July 1830, the professorship at University College, and endeavoured to make a modest income by writing for the ‘Penny Cyclopædia,’ revising the volume on ‘The Hindoos’ for the Library of Entertaining Knowledge (to which he contributed an original sketch of Indian literature), editing Haughton's ‘Bengali and Sanskrit Dictionary,’ and giving lessons in German [see Haughton, Sir Graves Champney]. While thus struggling to maintain himself he never lost sight of his ambition to produce something monumental in Sanskrit scholarship. In 1830 he issued his ‘Rig-vedæ Specimen,’ and his spare time thenceforward was devoted to preparing a text and Latin translation of the ‘Rigveda,’ the first volume of which (‘Rigveda Sanhita lib. prim.’) was published by the Oriental Translation Fund in 1838—after the young scholar's premature death. He had been reinstated at University College as professor of Sanskrit in 1836, but recognition came too late. Overwork, and the struggle for bare subsistence, had broken his health. At the last he decided to return to his family in Germany, but died in Maddox Street, London, on 12 Sept. 1837, when he had only just reached the age of thirty-two. He was buried in Kensal Green cemetery, where a monument was erected to him by English friends and scholars. There is also a bust of him in the ‘large room,’ behind the reading room, of the British Museum. Just before his death he had helped to edit the ‘Miscellaneous Essays’ of H. T. Colebrooke, who predeceased him by six months; and he was also assisting in the preparation of the catalogue of the Syriac manuscripts in the British Museum (‘Cat. Cod. MSS. … pars prima, Codices Syriacos et Carshunicos amplectens’ published in 1838), and in the ‘Catalogue of Sir R. Chambers's Sanskrit Manuscripts’ (1838). He was for many years honorary foreign and Germany secretary to the Oriental Translation Fund and a member of the committee.

[Klatt in Allgem. Deutsch. Biogr. s.v.; Ann. Report of Royal Asiatic Society, 1838, in Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society, vol. v. p. vii, 1839; P. von Bohlen's Autobiographie; Ann. Reg. lxxix. 207, 1837; information from J. M. Horsburgh, esq., secretary of University College, and Professor Cecil Bendall; Brit. Mus. Cat.]

S. L-P.