FERGUSSON, James. Ayr 22.1.1808 — London 9.1.1886. British (Scottish) Architect and Historian of Indian architecture. Son of Dr. William F., a noted army surgeon and medical author, educated at Edinburgh High School and at Hounslow. He came early to Calcutta and served at Fairlie, Fergusson & Cny, where his elder brother (and before him other relatives) was a shareholder. He soon founded his own indigo factory and luckily parted from the mother company before its bankruptcy. In ten years he earned a wealth, so that he was capable of leaving the business and concentrating on archaeological research. He travelled around India studying its ruins in 1835-42. In 1842 he returned to England and settled down in London for the rest of his life. In 1845 again visited India. In 1856-58 he was the general manager of Crystal Palace Company and in 1868 secretary to A. H. Layard at the Ministry of public works, then an inspector of the ministry. However, as a layman he was not much appreciated in public life (nevertheless C.I.E. and LL.D. of Edinburgh). He died in a stroke.
JF was a noted specialist of architecture, who did important pioneer work in Indian archaeology. He was a skilled user of camera obscura. He was the first, who attempted at a systematical study of Indian cave architecture, and the first to present Amarāvatī finds. While in India he also studied on physical geography (rivers of Bengal), in England on the megaliths.
Publications: “On the Rock-Cut Temples of India”, JRAS 8, 1846, 30-92.
– “The Ancient Buddhist Architecture of India”, Tr. of Royal Inst. of British Architects 1848; “The Architectural Splendor of the City of Bijapur”, Ibid. 1851; “The Great Dome of Muhammad’s Tomb, Bijapur”, Ibid. 1851.
– “Recent Changes in the Delta of Ganges”, Quart. Journal of Geol. Soc. 1863.
– “Description of the Amravati Tope in Guntur”, JRAS N.S. 3, 1868, 132-166; “On Hiouen-Thsang’s Journey from Patna to Ballabhí”, JRAS 6, 1873, 213-274 & 396; articles on Indian chronology, JRAS 4, 1870, 81-137 & 12, 1880, 159-285.
– Tree and Serpent Worship; or Illustrations of Mythology and Art in India in the first and fourth centuries after Christ, from the Sculptures of the Buddhist Topes at Sanchi and Amravati. 247 p. L. 1868.
– The History of Indian and Eastern Architecture. 1-2. 1876, 2nd ed. 1891, 3rd ed. L. 1910.
– With J. Burgess: The Cave-Temples of India. 536 p. L. 1880.
– Archaeology in India with Especial Reference to the Works of Babu Rajendralal Mitra. L. 1884.
– An Essay on the Ancient Topography of Jerusalem. L. 1847; The Temples of the Jews and other Buildings in the Haram Area of Jerusalem. L. 1878; articles about the location of the grave of Jesus.
– “The History of Pointed Arch”, Tr. of Royal Inst. of British Architects 1849; “The Architecture of Southern Italy”, ibid. 1850; “The Architecture of Niniveh”, ibid. 1851.
– Palaces of Nineveh and Persepolis restored. 16+368 p. L. 1851.
– An Historical Enquiry into the true Principles of Beauty in Art: More Especially with Reference to Architecture. L. 1849 (a rare book).
– Proposed New System of Fortification. L. 1849, and further pamphlets on behalf of earthen walls against stone mures in 1852 and 1856.
– The Illustrated Handbook of Architecture. 1-2. L. 1855; A History of the Modern Styles of Architecture. 1862; new ed. of both as A History of Architecture in all countries. 1-3. L. 1865-67.
– Rude stone monuments in all countries: their age and uses. 21+559 p. L. 1872.
– The Parthenon: an essay on the Mode by which Light was introduced in Greek and Roman Temples. 1883; a great number of articles, especially in his later years.
Sources: G.W.B[urnet], D.N.B. 18, 1889, 360-362; Buckland, Dictionary; W.H. White, JRAS N.S. 18, 1886, Proc. xxiv-xxxix; Wikipedia with two portraits.
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