BABINGTON, Benjamin Guy

BABINGTON, Benjamin Guy. London 5.3.1794 — London 5/8.4.1865. British Physician interested in Tamil Language and Literature. Son of a London physician, William B. (of Irish origin), and Martha Elizabeth Hough. Educated at Charterhouse 1803-07. He served in the navy until 1810, got then an appointment in India and went there after having studied two years at Haileybury. In 1812–14 in Madras, learned Tamil and some Sanskrit, and started a study of Mahabalipuram inscriptions. In 1814 travelled overland to England (where he married), 1817 again to Madras, but he had continuous problems with his health and had in 1819 to return to England. Now he began medical studies. Graduated M.D. 1831 Cambridge. He still continued his studies of Tamil for a while, and planned even a dictionary, but after 1831 seems to have lost his interest in Asian studies. Instead he practised a succesful career as a hospital physician at Guy’s Hospital in London, but resigned in 1855 because of disagreement over policy. Now he was interested in organic chemistry and medicine (epidemiology), invented medical instruments and published some studies. Taught at Royal College of Physicians. Married Anna Mary Fayle, four children.

With Sir John Newbolt Babington founded in 1817 the Madras Literary Society. Honorary secretary to the R.A.S. in 1826-28. On ground of the Mahabalipuram article and its plates one of the pioneers on Indian palaeography.

Publications: “Remarks on the geology of the country between Tellicherry and Madras”, Transactions of the Geological Society 5, 1821, 328-339; “Description of the Pandoo Coolies in Malabar”, TrLitSocBombay 3, 1823, 324-330, 4 pl.

Edited & transl. from Latin Beschi’s Tamil Grammar: Beschi Shen-Tamizh. A Grammar of the High Dialect of the Tamil Language, termed Shen Tamil, to which is added an Introduction to Tamil Poetry. 12+5+117 p. Madras 1822.

Transl. from Tamil: Adventures of Gooroo Paramartan. With Tamil text. 12+243 p. L. 1822 (Paramāṟtakuruviṉkatai); “The Vedála Cadai” (Vetālapañcavimśati), ch. 4 (20 p.) of the Miscellaneous Translations from Oriental Languages. 1. Or. Tr. Fund. L. 1831.

– “An Account of the Sculptures and Inscriptions at Mahāmalaipur”, TrRAS 2:1, 1829, 258-269 & 18 plates.

– Medical writings.

Sources: J.F.P[ayne], D.N.B. 2, 1885, 311f., rev. by M. Bevan in Oxford D.N.B.; JRAS Annual Report for 1867, xivf.; Gosche, ZDMG Wiss. Jahrb. 1862–67, 68f.; several further biographic notes in the Br. Biogr. Archives; Wikipedia with portrait.

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