FABRICIUS, Johann Philipp. Kleeberg, Hessen 22.1.1711 — Madras 23.1.1791. German Missionary and Tamil Scholar. In India from 1740 until his death. Son of Reinhard F., an official of Hessen-Darmstadt, a Pietist family. Studies at Giessen (law) and Halle (now also theology). In 1732-36 worked as tutor in his elder brother’s family Kleeberg. In 1836 returned to Halle to continue theology studies. He was chosen by G. A. Francke to the Trankebar mission, ordained in Copenhagen 1739 and came to India in 1740. First worked in Tranquebar, quickly learned Tamil, in 1742 went to Madras to become Schultze’s successor. “Went to Madras in service of Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, assisted at the English Church when required. When Fort St. George surrendered to the French, 1746, he took refuge at the Dutch settlement at Pulicat, and again, when Count Lally and his army appeared in Dec. 1758; returned, on raising of the siege, to Vepery, plundered by the Muhammadans. Ministered at Vellore, 1772-3, up to 1780, greatly trusted by Government and the people. Mismanaged the funds, imprisoned for debt for 18 months, 1787-9, relieved by Gericke in 1788, as the head of Vepery Mission and school, died there.” In 1749-82 J. C. Breithaupt was his collaborator. Unmarried.
Beside missionary work, F. was a Tamil scholar, the author of the well-known dictionary (the revised version is still useful for classical literature), who also translated parts of the New Testament into Tamil, and composed lyrics in Tamil.
Publications: With J. C. Breithaupt: Dictionary, Malabar and English, wherein the words and phrases of the Tamulian Language, commonly called by Europeans the Malabar Language, are explained in English; by the English Missionaries of Madras. 4+185 p. 185 p. Wepery 1779, 2nd ed. Madras 1809, 3rd ed. by E. Schaeffer and N. Baisenherz. Tranquebar 1897; new rev. and enl. ed. Tamil and English Dictionary based on “Malabar–English Dictionary”. 660 p. Tranquebar 1910.
– With J. C. Breithaupt: The Grammar for learning the principles of the Malabar Language, properly called Tamul or Tamulian Language, by the English Missionaries of Madras. 2nd ed. Wepery 1789 (the first ed. is not preserved).
– Published 335 hymns in Tamil, mostly translated from German, revised Ziegenbalg’s Tamil translation of the New Testament (1758, rev. ed. 1766), Psalms (1756) and Old Testament (1798).
Sources: Buckland, Dictionary; V. Hatzsch, A.D.B. 48, 1904, 478-483; *A. Lehmann, Es begann in Tranquebar. B. 1955, ch. 15 and N.D.B. 4, 1959, 740; Mohanavelu 1993, 195; Wikipedia; portrait in Rau 2.
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