CHALMERS, Robert (1919 first baron of Chalmers of Northiam). London 18.8.1858 — Oxford 17.11.1938. Lord. British (Scottish) Civil Servant and Indologist (Pāli Scholar). Born in London in a Scottish family, educated at City of London School (under E. Abbott). From 1877 studies of classical philology at Oriel College (Oxford, B.A.), also natural science and some Sanskrit (B.A. 1881). After a brief period in Edinburgh employed from 1882 at Ministry of Finance (from 1903 Assistant Undersecretary, from 1911 Permanent Undersecretary). Perhaps in Ceylon as early as in 1884, in any case Governor of the island from 1913 to 1915. He had difficulties because of serious disturbances, and his measures were severely criticized. In 1916 returned to Ministry of Finance. Served six months in government of Ireland. Retired in 1919 and got the baronetcy. Married 1888 Maud Mary Piggott (d. 1923), both sons died in the WW I, one daughter, again married 1935 Iris Florence Biles. C.B. 1900, K.C.B. 1908, G.C.B. 1916, bart. 1919. President of the R.A.S. 1922-25. Master of Peterhouse (Cambridge) 1924-31.
As a Pāli scholar Chalmers was a student of Rhys Davids and as a wealthy man an important support for the P.T.S. As a translator he dealt with the texts rather freely lopping off repetitions and translating even technical terms.
Publications: “The Lineage of “Proud King””, JRAS 1892, 39-51 (on Jātakas); “The Madhura Sutta concerning Caste”, JRAS 1894, 341-366 (MN 84 ed., tr. and studied); other MN Suttas, JRAS 1894, 386f., 1895, 751-771; “The King of Siam’s Edition of the Pāli Tipiṭaka”, JRAS 1898, 1-10; “Tathāgata”, JRAS 1898, 103-115 (with lively discussion in this and the next volume); “Buddhaghosa and his Work”, CALR 1:1, 1915.
– Edited with Trenckner & Mrs. Rhys Davids: Majjhima Nikāya. 1-4. L. 1888-99, 1925 (vol. 1 by Tr., 2-3 by RC, 4 by RD; PTS Text series 60-63).
– Translated vol. 1 of the Jātaka Stories. (Ed. by E. B. Cowell.) 26+324 p. P.T.S. Transl. Series 1. 1895; Majjhima Nikāya. Further Dialogues of the Buddha. 1-2. 371+351 p. S.B.B. 1-2. 1926-27.
– Edited and translated: Buddha’s Teachings being the Suttanipāta. 22+300 p. H.O.S. 37. Cambridge Mass. 1932.
– Transl. from Greek: “The Parables of Barlaam and Joasaph”, JRAS 1891, 423-449.
Sources: D.N.B.; F.W. Thomas, JRAS 1939, 328-334; Peiris, Buddhism, 37-40 with photo; Wikipedia with picture.
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