Rodwell, John Medows (DNB01)
(1808–1900), orientalist, eldest son of John Medows Rodwell and Marianna Kedington, was born at Barham Hall, Suffolk, on 11 April 1808. Educated at Bury St. Edmunds under Dr. Malkin, he was admitted on 10 Nov. 1825 to Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge, where he held a scholarship (1827-30), and was likewise stroke of the first college boat; as an undergraduate he was also a contemporary and friend of Darwin, and used to accompany him on botanising expeditions. He graduated B.A. 1830, M.A. 1833, and was ordained deacon at Norwich on 5 June 1831, and priest at London on 17 June 1832. After curacies at Barham, where his uncle, William Kirby (1759-1850) [q. v.], was vicar, and at Woodford, Essex, he became rector of St. Peter's, Saffron Hill, London (1836-43), and lecturer at St. Andrew's, Holborn. In 1843 Bishop Blomfield gave him the valuable rectory of St. Ethelburga's, Bishopsgate, which he held till his death; but after some thirty-five years of active work he retired, with the bishop's sanction, under a medical certificate from residential duty. Some of the curates-in-charge after this time introduced a ceremonial ritual into the church which evoked the opposition of protestant agitators.
Rodwell appears to have commenced oriental studies when quite a young man, by reading Hebrew with his uncle, the Rev. R. Kedington. In acquiring the elements of Arabic he was assisted by Catafago.
His greatest literary achievement was his English version of the Koran, which appeared in 1861 (2nd edit. 1876), and is considered by many scholars as the best existing translation, combining accuracy with a faithful representation of the literary garb of the original. His other works are translations of 'Job' (1864; 2nd edit. 1868) and 'Isaiah' (1881; 2nd edit. 1886). He also issued translations of collected liturgies from Ethiopic manuscripts (1864), and from the Coptic (1866), and briefly catalogued Lord Crawford's Coptic and Ethiopic manuscripts at Haigh Hall. The value or his work was recognised by his election to an honorary fellowship of his college on 7 Oct. 1886. Rodwell's extraordinary retentiveness of mental vigour may be estimated from the fact that he commenced the study of several fresh languages when past eighty years of age, and even in his 91st year (June 1898) printed a short pamphlet or open letter on the derivation and doctrinal significance of the word 'mass,' and somewhat later corresponded with the present writer as to books for the acquirement of Sanskrit.
He died at his house at St. Leonards-on-Sea on 6 June 1900, and is buried in Ore cemetery, Hastings.
Rodwell was twice married: (l)in 1834 to Elizabeth, daughter of the Rev. William Parker, Rodwell's predecessor at St. Ethelburga's, by whom he had several children, twosons surviving, one being the Rev. W. M. Rodwell; (2) about 1860, to Louisa Rohrs.
[Personal knowledge and private information; Rodwell's Works; J. Venn's Biographical History of Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge, ii. 198.]