a surname derived from two Gaelic words, Gille and Criosd,
meaning the servant of Christ.
a physician of considerable eminence, was born at Dumfries in 1707. He
began the study of medicine at Edinburgh, and completed it at London and
Paris. Having obtained the degree of M.D. from the university of Rheims,
he returned, in 1732, to his native town, where he continued to practise
till his death, which took place in 1774. – His works are:
On the use of
Sea Voyages, in Medicine. Lond. 1756, 8vo. New edition in 1771. The
chief object of this small work is to recommend sea voyages in cases of
on Nervous Fevers. Edin. Medical Essays, iv. P. 347. It recommends a
liberal use of opium in such cases. Continuation of the same subject. Ib.
v. p. 505.
Answer to an
objection against Inoculation. Ess. Phys. Et Lit. ii. P. 396.
Account of a
very infectious distemper prevailing in many places. 1765. Ib. iii. P.
on the Catarrhal Epidemic of 1692. Ib. 409.
Ov the Urinary
Bladder thickened. Ib. p. 471.
an eminent orientalist, was born at Edinburgh in 1759. He was educated
in George Heriot’s Hospital, to which excellent institution he
bequeathed a handsome donation. Having studies for the medical
profession, he went early to Calcutta as assistant-surgeon in the Hon.
East India Company’s service. Perceiving the importance of the
Hindostanee in conducting business with the natives, he devoted himself
with unremitting ardour and industry to the acquirement of that
language, and in an Indian garb travelled through those parts of
Hindostan where it is spoken in the greatest purity. Nor did he confine
his studies to the Hindoostanee tongue alone. He acquired the Sanscrit,
the Persian, and others, and was one of the first Europeans who excited
an interest in the languages of India far exceeding what had previously
been considered necessary for mere official purposes, or for the
government of our vast possessions in the East. In 1787 he published at
Calcutta an English and Hindostanic Dictionary, in two parts, which soon
became the standard work on the subject, not only in India but at home.
This was followed by various other introtudtory works on the languages
of Hindostan and Persia.
college of Fort-William in Bengal was founded, in 1800, by the Marquis
Wellesley, Dr. Gilchrist was created professor of the Hindoostanee and
Persian languages, being the first that had been appointed in India.
About the end of 1803, or beginning of 1804, he was compelled from ill
health to resign his situation in the college at Fort-William, when he
received from the governor-general in council a public letter to the
court of directors at home, dated February 29, 1804, recommending him
“to the favour and protection of that honourable court, as a proper
object of the liberal spirit which the court had always manifested in
promoting the study of the oriental languages.” In addition to this, the
Marquis Wellesley furnished him with the following highly honourable and
flattering letter of introduction to Mr. Addington, afterwards Lord
Sidmouth: – “Mr. John Gilchrist, late professor of the Hindoostanee
language in the college of Fort-William, will have the honour of
delivering this letter to you. The records of this government furnish
ample proof of the importance of Mr. Gilchrist’s services. I am anxious,
however, that you shall be apprised of the personal interest which I
feel in Mr. Gilchrist’s honourable reception in England; and I take the
liberty of recommending him to your favourable notice, as a gentleman
highly distinguished for his zeal in the promotion of an important
branch of the public service, and for his eminent knowledge of the
Oriental languages.” With these and other testimonials, Dr. Gilchrist
returned in 1804 to Britain, and took up his residence in Edinburgh.
While he resided in that city, his house, on the north side of
Nicolson’s Square, was remarkable for the aviary which he had erected
upon it, and for the number of rare and curious birds he had collected
together. At one period, in conjunction with Mr. James Inglis, he
instituted a bank in Edinburgh, under the name of “Inglis, Borthwick
Gilchrist, and Co.” They issued notes which, we believe, the other banks
refused to take, and after going on for some time, the establishment was
at last obliged to be relinquished.
Dr. Gilchrist was a violent liberal, and took a strong interest in all
local matters of public discussion. In June 1815, when the announcement
of the battle of Waterloo was read aloud in a coffeeroom in Edinburgh
where he was, he at once gave the lie to the gentleman who proclaimed
the intelligence; and had not the friends of the parties interfered, a
duel would have been the consequence.
About the year
1816 he quitted Edinburgh, and settled in London, where he at first
taught the oriental languages privately in his own house, but in
December 1818, he commenced teaching and lecturing on the Hindostanee,
Persian, Persi-Arabic, and other eastern languages, under the auspices
and sanction of the Hon. East India Company, at the Oriental
Institution, Leicester Square. In June 1825, he resigned his duties at
this establishment, his appointment being only probationary for
successive terms of three years. During his residence in London he
published various oriental works, (the titles of which are given below),
one of the most remarkable of which appeared in 1826, entitled ‘The
Orienti-Occidental Tuitionary Pioneer,’ consisting, chiefly, of his
official reports to the court of directors as to the progress of the
pupils under his charge, some of which, it must be confessed, are
conceived in a very extraordinary style. In the latter ones especially,
he complained most bitterly of the parsimony and ill-treatment of the
Hon. Company, on account of the small remuneration allowed him for his
services. Besides his pension of £300, as a retired surgeon, instead of
£500 for lecture-rooms and other incidental charges. From some of his
works, however, he must have derived immense profits, and indeed he
himself tells us in one of his reports, that he had acquired an ample
fortune from his oriental publications, and “from a favourable change in
his banking adventures.”
latter years of his life Dr. Gilchrist lived in retirement. He died at
Paris in January 1841, aged 82. He had married a Miss Mary Ann Coventry,
by whom he had no family, and who, in August 1850, married, a second
time, at Paris, General Guglielmo Pepe, of the kingdom of Naples.
Although very eccentric in his way, Dr. Gilchrist was truly a
good-hearted and benevolent person; and it may be said to his honour,
that he never had an opportunity of doing a good action to a
fellow-creature without availing himself of it. The interest he took in
his pupils, and especially in those who showed any indications of genius
and application in their studies, was very great, and continued during
their subsequent career. Since the commencement of his labours vast
progress has been made in the knowledge of the literary antiquities and
philology of India, which is mainly owing to the impetus that his
example and writings gave to the study f the Hindostanee language and
literature in this country.
His works are:
English and Hindoostanie; 2 parts. Calcutta, 1787, 4to.
Linguist; an Introduction to the Language of Hindoostan, comprising the
Rudiments of that tongue, with a Vocabulary, &c. To which is added, the
English and Hindoostanic part of the Articles of War, with partial Notes
and Observations. Calcutta, 1798, 4to.
or a Short Introduction to the Hindoostanic Language; comprising the
Rudiments of that tongue, with an extensive Vocabulary, English and
Hindoostanic, and Hindoostanic and English. Calcutta, 1800, 8vo.
New Theory and
Prospectus of the Persian Verbs; with their Synonyms in English and
Hindoostanic. Lond. 1801, 4to. 1804.
Guide to the Hindoostanic, or grand popular Language of India,
improperly called Moorish. Calcutta, 1802, 8vo. 2d edition, Lond. 1808.
Lond. 1815, 8vo.
Benuzeer; a Hindoostanic Romance. 1803, fol.
Monitor, or the Anti-Jargonist; Stranger’s Guide; Oriental Linguist; and
various other Works, compressed into two portable volumes, n the
Hindoostanic Language; with information respecting Eastern tongues,
manners, and customs, &c., that previous time and the voyage to the East
Indies may both be rendered agreeably subservient to the speedy
acquisition of much useful knowledge on Indian affairs, intimately
connected with future health, fame, happiness, and fortune, in that
remote but promising portion of the British Empire. Edin. 1806-8, 2
Grammar of the
Hindoostanic Language, 4to.
delivered at a meeting of the Merchants’ Company of Edinburgh,
respecting the Police Act. 1807, 8vo.
Reform on Constitutional Principles; or British Loyalty against
Continental Royalty; with an Appendix. 1816.
Infallible East Indian Guide, or Hindoostanee Multum in Parvo, as a
Grammatical Compendium of the Grand, Popular, and Military language of
all India, long, but improperly, called the Moors, or Moorish jargon.
Lond. 1820. On the title-page of this work, which was intended as a
rudimental text-book of the Hindoostanee tongue, Dr. Gilchrist styles
himself “The Founder of Hindoostanee Philology.”
East India Guide and Vade Mecum for the Public functionary, Government
officer, Private agent, Trader, or Foreign Sojourner in British India,
being a Digest of the work of the late Captain Williamson, with many
improvements and additions, embracing the most valuable parts of similar
publications on the Statistics, Literature, Official Duties, and Social
Economy of life and conduct in that interesting quarter of the Globe.
Orienti-Occidental Tuitionary Pioneer, principally his official reports
to the Court of Directors of the East India Company, regarding the
progress of the pupils under his charge. London, 1826.