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The Asiatic Society of Bengal

Nature volume 100, pages 333334 (27 December 1917) | Download Citation



THE publications of the Asiatic Society of Bengal are fully abreast of those of the learned societies of the European world. To the Indian they are reminiscent of a glorious past, and give a forecast of the Asiatic world that is advancing by leaps and bounds into the domains of commerce, industry, art, and science. They breathe to-day not only of the society's great founder, Sir William Jones, (but of a new Asiatic life. In the founder's first presidential address (delivered in Calcutta in 1784) we read: “Whether you will enrol, as members, any number of learned natives, you will hereafter decide.” It is a somewhat curious paradox on these words that the present membership is not only very largely “learned natives,” but that many of the recent articles of conspicuous merit are from the pens of Asiatic writers. Indians are, in fact, pressing forward in every department of thought and research, and are practically clamouring to write the too long neglected history of their country. There are eighty-seven important articles in the Journals (placed in our hands), and of these forty-seven are written by native gentlemen. In this connection it may be mentioned that the “Centenary Review “of the society (published in 1885) was written in three separate chapters, the authors of which were two native gentlemen and a German. But to revert to the founder, Sir William was no lover of systematic natural history. He lived in Sanskrit lore, and could see no merit in, or necessity for, systematic studies. The direction was thereby given for the future life of the society, and to-day were one to seek out themes of adverse criticism the most obvious would be that the volumes on our table denote a disproportionate treatment of zoology and botany as compared with philology, ethnography, mythology, anthropology, numismatology, archasology, and history, each no doubt important, but not more so than either zoology or botany, to the new life of India.

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