DICKSON, John Frederick

DICKSON, John Frederick. 17.9.1835 — London 21.12.1891. Sir. British Civil Servant and Pāli Scholar in Ceylon. Son of Robert D., a physician. Educated in Westminster and studied from 1855 at Christ Church, Oxford. Graduated B.A. in 1859 and joined colonial service. Served in Ceylon: from 1859 Writer, from 1873 Government Agent of Central Province, in Anurādhapura. From 1885 until 1891 Colonial Secretary of Straits Settlements in Singapore. Hon. M.A. 1873 Oxford. K.C.M.G. 1888. He was characterised as good administrator, “much familiar with native life and habits”, and antiquarian and a scholar of Pāli literature. In Sri Lanka he was much interested in practical, everyday and monastic Buddhism and was critical towards the Christian missionaries (Harris). Married 1859 Annie Waters (d. 1866), again 1875 Emily Ayton Lee, at least one son with her.

Publications: Edited & translated: “The Upasampadá-Kammavácá”, JRAS 7, 1875, 1-16; “The Pâtimokkha”, JRAS 8, 1876, 62-130.

– “Notes Illustrative of Buddhism as the Daily Religion of the Buddhists of Ceylon, and some Account of their Ceremonies before and after death”, JRAS-CB 8:29, 1884, 203-236. It seems that he is also responsible of the most of the studies, Pāli texts and translations in “Papers on the first fifty Játakas”, JRAS-CB 8:28, 1884, 99-201, although the whole is edited by the Lord Bishop of Colombo (R. S. Copleston).

– “Ceylon” in Encyclopaedia Britannica.

Sources: Boase in Br. Biogr. Arch. 1st Series and Toussaint, Annals of the Ceylon Civil Service. 1935 ibid. 2nd series; Harris 2006, 118; Wikipedia with photo; nothing in the N.U.C. While other information was easy to find, the names of his father and his first wife were finally found in the marriage announcement in British Medical Journal 1859, 552.

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