CŒURDOUX, Gaston-Laurent. Bourges 18.10.1691— Pondichéry 15.6.1779. S.J. French Missionary priest and a pioneer of Indology in India. Joined the S.J. in 1715, left for South India in 1732, served in Madurai Mission in 1732-79. In 1744-51 the superior of the mission. After the suppression of Jesuits lived in Pondichéry in retirement, now as a member of Missions étrangères.
GLC was a scientist by nature. In 1730 he had published a study of aurora borealis. In the well-known memoir sent to A.I.B.L. 1767 he showed the relationship between Sanskrit and European languages well before Sir William Jones, but the text sent to Paris remained as MS. and was published only in the beginning of the 19th century (1808). His excellent account of the manners and customs of South India written in 1777 was first copied by N.-J. Desvaulx under his own name, then further plagiarized by J.-A. Dubois in his 1817 book. The original text was also meant to be kind of apology of Jesuits and a criticism of the historical theories of Voltaire. In France, his work was largely ignored, because he was Jesuit.
Publications: Mœurs et coutumes des indiens 1777. Un inédit de père G.-L.C. s.j. dans la version de N.-J. Desvaulx. Éd. par S. Murr. P.E.F.E.O. 146:1. P. 1987.
– some published letters in Lettres éfifiantes et curieuses, often discussing practical questions.
– the famous memoir on IE published in MAIBL 49, 1808, 647-667.
– a MS. dictionary “télougou–français–samskroutam”, and other manuscript works (a Sanskrit grammar, on Indian astronomy and philosophy, on cartography), but most are lost.
Sources: L. Besse, “Miss. du Carnatic”, RHIF 2, 1916, 197-203; J. Dehergne, D.B.F. 9, 1961, 121; J. J. Godfrey, “Sir William Jones and Père C.: A philological footnote”, JAOS 87, 1967, 57-59 (cf. 89, 1969, 416f.); *A. Roşu, “Les missionaires dans l’histoire des sciences et des techniques indiennes 1. Un inédit jésuite sur la phytothérapie indienne au XVIIIe síecle”, JEAS 3, 1993; I.G. Zupanov, D.O.L.F. 227f.; Wikipedia.
*Sylvie Murr, L’indologie du Père Cœurdoux: stratégies, apologétique et scientificité. P.E.F.E.O. 146:2. P. 1987