CALDWELL, Robert. Antrim, Ireland 7.5.1814 — Kodaikanal, India 28.8.1891. British (Scots) Missionary and Indologist. Born in Ireland of poor Scots parents, moved to Glasgow and had to work from the age of nine. When fifteen he moved to Dublin, where he studied art, but then got religion. Returned in 1833 to Glasgow and joined 1834 the London Missionary Society. Ordered to study languages at Glasgow University (B.A. 1837) he became interested in comparative philology. In 1837 left for India. During the voyage became friend with —> C. P. Brown, and, when learning Tamil in Madras, with John Anderson. In 1841 he joined the Church of England and ordained priest. In 1841-91 worked in Tinnevelly (Tirunelveli) and promoted teaching. In 1858-69 collaborated in Tamil Bible translation. In 1877 consecrated as coadjutor to the Bishop of Madras. Visited England in 1854-57, 1873-75 and 1883-84. In 1881 retired and settled in Kodaikanal. He was also an important social reformer, who strongly opposed to caste system. LL.D. 1857 Glasgow, D.D. 1874 Durham. Married 1844 with Eliza Mault (1822–1899), two daughters, one son. His nephew was J. L. Wyatt.
RC also sought for Sanskrit MSS., but did his main scholarly work in the field of comparative Dravidian philology, where he was one of the most important pioneers. The very term “Dravidian” was coined by him from Sanskrit base. He was also keenly interested in ancient history of South India and, although amateur, conducted archaeological excavations.
Publications: Tinnevelli Shamars. 1849, 2nd ed. L. 1850. In 1881 RC withdraw the book from sale, because the educational level of the caste had risen so much.
– Comparative Grammar of the Dravidian or South Indian Family of Languages. L. 1856, 2nd ed. 1875, 3rd rev. ed. by J. L. Wyatt & T. Ramakrishna Pillai. 40+640 p. 1913.
– Political and General History of the District Tinnevelly from the earliest Period to its Cession to the English Government in 1801. Madras 1881.
– Lectures on the Tinnevelly Missions. 1857; On Reserve in communicating Religious Instruction to Non-Christians in Mission Schools in India. Madras 1861; Records of the Early History of the Tinnevelly Mission of the Society for Promoting the Propagation of the Gospel. Madras 1881.
– articles (many in IA), sermons and religious books; Reminiscences. 1894.
Sources: Buckland, Dictionary; E.I.C., D.N.B. Suppl. 1, 1901, 376-378; *R.N.C[ust], JRAS 1892, 145f.; *R. P. Sethu Pillai, “The Dravidian Philologist”, Bharata-Kaumudi … in honour of R. K. Mookerji. 2. Allahabad 1947, 537-541; anon., “Bishop C.”, IJDL 18:1, 1989, 42-66; *R.E. Frykenberg, Oxford D.N.B.; Wikipedia with photo and further references.