FORCHHAMMER, Emmanuel. St.Antönien, Chur 12.3.1851 — Myingyan 26.4.1890. Swiss Indologist (Pāli Scholar) in Burma, Pioneer of Burmese Archaeology. He was born in Switzerland as the son of Rev. Christian Gottlieb F. (1814–1859, came from Schleswig-Holstein), Lutheran minister in Prätigau, and Elisabeth Schlegel (1824–1891, Swiss), his brother was the church musician Theophil F. (1847–1923). Educated at home and in Chur. In 1867 to the U.S.A., studies of theology in New York, soon medicine in New Orleans, graduated as a Med.Dr., and worked as assistant surgeon in a hospital in New Orleans. Then he became interested in languages, travelled among Indian tribes in U.S.A. and Mexico and came to Europe around 1874. From 1875 he studied Sanskrit, Pāli, Tibetan, Chinese and Arabic at Leipzig (Brockhaus, v. d. Gabelentz, Fleischer), and Armenian at the Mekhitarist Monastery in Venice. Never completed Ph.D. In 1878 he was offered two positions. Rejecting the offer of the Brazilian Emperor to survey Indian languages there he accepted the chair of Pāli at Rangoon College (Government High School). As professor in Rangoon he studied Burmese and Pāli literature, catalogued Pāli manuscripts, wrote on Burmese law and edited the Tipiṭaka. He was interested in local languages like Shan and Karen and started a comparative dictionary of the South-East Asian languages of Burma. From 1882 he was also Archaeological Inspector for British Burma, engaged in excavations and decipherment of ancient inscriptions in Pāli, Mon and Burmese. He made an archaeological survey of Arakan and in 1888 surveyed the temple ruins of Pagan. Eventually his health succumbed to the climate and he died planning returning to Europe. Married 1881 Constantin Bäuerlein, the daughter of a missionary working in Bangalore, one daughter.
Forchhammer was active and achieved much, but unfortunately much of his work remained unpublished (e.g. yearly archaeological reports). But his hypothesis of the priority of Mon to Burmese in legal and civilisational history and even his linguistic abilities have been recently criticized (Huxley).
Publications: “Indo-Chinese Languages”, IA 11, 1882, 177-189; some brief articles and reports.
– Several contributions in J. Jardine (ed.), Notes on Buddhist Law. 1-8. Rangoon 1882-83.
– Notes on the early history and geography of British Burma. 1. The Shwedagon Pagoda. 2. The first Buddhist mission to Suvannabhumi. 10+16 p. Rangoon 1883-84.
– Sources and Development of Burmese Law from the Era of the First Introduction of the Indian Law to the Time of the British Occupation of Pegu. 3+109 p. Rangoon 1885; edited and transl. King Wagaru’s Manu Dhammasattham. 117 p. Rangoon 1886 (or 1892).
– Pagan. 1. The Kyaukku Temple. Rangoon 1889
– Report on the antiquities of Arakan. 67 p. 42 pl. n.pl. 1892.
– Taw Sein Ko (ed.), Inscriptions of Pagan, Pinya and Ava, deciphered from the ink impressions found among the papers of the late Dr. E. Forchhammer. Rangoon 1802.
Sources: Buckland, Dictionary; H. Cordier, TP 1, 1890, 165; A. Huxley, “Mon Studies and Professor Forchhammer. The Admiration that Destroys”, ZDMG 162, 2012, 391-410; J. Der freie Rhätier 20.7.1890; R.R., Athenaeum 17.5.1890, 641f.; Hist.-biogr. Lex. Schw. 3, with small photo; brother in N.D.B. 5; A. Bigger in Web HistLexSchweiz (1998), my sincere thanks to him for sending copies of the two obituary notices (FRh and Ath.); long obituary in Rangoon Gazette 2.5.1890 (a copy of this was kindly sent to me by Andrew Huxley).
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