CHILDERS, Robert Cesar. Nice 1838 — London 25.7.1876. British Indologist (Pāli scholar). Born in southern France as the son of Charles Ch. (1806–1896), the English chaplain of Nice (then still part of the kingdom of Piedmont-Sardinia), and Dulcibella Chester. Studies at Wadham College, Oxford. Travelled in Ireland. In 1860 joined the Ceylon Civil Service and became the private secretary of governor McCarthy. A brief time assistant to the government resident in Kandy, became ill in March 1864 and had to return to England. In Ceylon he had thoroughly learned Sinhalese and studied Pāli under Yātrāmullē Unnānsē in Bentota. After having recovered from an illness in 1869 he concentrated on his studies, starting with the Khuddakapātha edition. In autumn 1872 he became Sub-Librarian at India Office and in 1873 (unpaid) Professor of Pāli and Buddhist Literature at University College in London. Married 1867 Ann Barton, of Irish nobility, their son Robert Erskine Childers (1870–1922) was a noted author and Irish nationalist.

Childers was the first to show that Sinhalese was really a NIA language (earlier it was thought to be Dravidian). The major work of his last years was the first Pāli dictionary, an important pioneer work, which laid the foundation for further research. He planned an English translation of the Jātaka commentary and intended to participate in the S.B.E., but died of tuberculosis in the middle of work.

Publications: Edited and translated: “Khuddaka Páṭha”, JRAS 4, 1870, 309-339.

– “Notes on Dhammapada”, JRAS 5, 1871, 219-230.

A Dictionary of the Pali Language. 1-2. 624 p. L. 1872-75, 4th ed. 1909.

Edited: “Mahaparinibbána Sutta”, JRAS 7, 1875, 49-80 & 8, 1876, 219-216.

– “Notes on the Sinhalese Language”, JRAS 1875, 35-48, 1876, 131-155.

– “DAKKH in Pali”, BB 8, 1876, 150-155; “On Sandhi in Pali”, JRAS 11, 1879, 99-121.

Sources: T.W. R[hys] D[avids], D.N.B. 10, 1887, 248f.; JRAS Proc. 1877, viii-x; several letters by and to Childers are published as an appendix to L. de Soysa’s posthumous article in JRAS-CB 10:35, 1887 (1889), 182-204; Harris 2006, 117ff.; Wikipedia with photo; A. Payer, Materialien zum Neobuddhismus. 5 (

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