JOHNSTON, Alexander

JOHNSTON, Alexander. Carnsalloch, Dumfriesshire 25.4.1775 — London 6.3.1849. Sir. British (Scottish) Civil Servant in Sri Lanka. Son of Samuel J. and Hester Napier. Grew up in Madurai, where his father served as official and where Chr. Fr. Schwarz was his teacher. Learned Tamil, Telugu and Hindustani. In 1792 the family returned to the U.K. and AJ studied law at Göttingen and Lincoln’s Inn. From 1799 Advocate General, then 1802 Advocate Fiscal, 1807 Puisne Justice of Supreme Court and in 1811-19 the third Chief Justice of Ceylon. Made important reforms in education, abolished slavery, accepted natives in administration, introduced freedom of religion and developed legislature. Back in the U.K. he was a founder member of R.A.S. Married 1799 Louisa Campbell, seven children.

According to Burnouf his Mahāvaṁsa was “une traduction anglaise d’une trad. hollandaise d’une paraphrase singhalaise du texte pali” and was soon superseded by Turnour’s work.

Publications: “An Account of An Inscription found near Trincomalee in the Island of Ceylon”, TrRAS 1:2, 1826, 537*-540*, 2 pl.; with S. Lee, “A Cufic Inscription found in Ceylon”, TrRAS 1:2, 1826, 545-548, 1 pl (republished in J. Carswell et al. Mantai. 2013, 73ff.); “Account of a flag representing the introduction of the caste of Chalias or Cinnamon-Peelers into Ceylon”, TrRAS 3, 1835, 332-334.

Mahávansi, the Rájá-Ratnácari, and the Rájá-Vali, forming the Sacred and Historical Books of Ceylon; also A Collection of Tracts illustrative of the Doctrines and Literature of Buddhism. Translated from the Singhalese by AJ, ed. by E. Upham. 1-3. L. 1833

Sources: *H.G. Keene, Oxford D.N.B.; JRAS 12, 1850, Proc. ii-v; Wikipedia with two portraits.

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