Herbert Coleridge on Sanskrit

Richard Salomon rsalomon at U.WASHINGTON.EDU
Mon Jan 15 19:08:29 UTC 2007

Regarding Herbert Coleridge's study of Sanskrit, cited by Dominik: I 
remember reading somewhere that upon being told by his doctor that he had 
only six months to live, he replied "Then I must began Sanskrit in the 

Perhaps apocryphal, and in any case not likely to affect the powers that be; 
but amusing for us.

Rich Salomon

> Supposing one wanted to make Grassmann and the other celebrities listed
> part of an "argument for Sanskrit", it would have to be shown first that
> whatever they achieved in other fields was in some way "influenced by
> Sanskrit", resp. their knowledge of it, as is claimed here. How many
> years that would take I find it difficult to predict.

I disagree.  Well, it would depend what one was trying to do.  But I
specifically used the word "rhetorical" in my original posting.  Remember
to whom we are talking.  We are attempting to gather arguments that might
appear in a press release or be part of a document submitted to university
administrators.  Such a document should not be more than one or two sides
of A4 at the very most.  It has to be hard-hitting and very clear.  It
would be pointless to present a document that tried to make lengthy,
specialist arguments, even if they were achievable, which I doubt.

The sentence I have in mind might go something like this (with thanks to
Sonam Kacchru):

     An education in the Sanskrit language has been part of the
     intellectual formation of a surprisingly large number of leading
     scholars in many different fields, including T. S. Eliot (poet),
     Hermann Weyl (Bourbaki mathematician), J. Robert Oppenheimer
     (physicist, Manhattan Project), Irving Babbitt (cultural critic,
     founder of New Humanism), Hermann Günther Grassmann (mathematician),
     Ferdinand de Saussure (linguist, founder of structuralism),
     Leonard Bloomfield (linguist, founder of the Linguistic
     Society of America), Herbert Coleridge (founding editor of the Oxford
     English Dictionary), and many others.

I think Patrick's point, about situating Sanskrit within South Asian
Studies, is one of the most important we have heard so far.

We are not only thinking of the Berlin authorities, incidentally.  The
argument for Sanskrit and classical Indian studies needs to be made at
Cambridge and much more widely too.


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