William Jones, philologist

1746 (London) – 1794 (Calcutta, now Kolkata)

Jones, an all-time brilliant scholar, was the first to see the family relationship of all Indo-European languages, and especially of Sanskrit with Greek and Latin. He also almost single-handed started the academic study of Indian culture, his work directly or indirectly inspiring Goethe, Coleridge and the Bengal Renaissance. He had important links with Wilkins and Monboddo (both also pioneers of historical and comparative linguistics, intrigued by Sanskrit). Priestley, Franklin, Price and Smith were all friends, Banks an important correspondent, and Gibbon, Goldsmith and Garrick all fellow-members of Johnson and Reynolds’ Turk’s Head Club.