SMITH, Helmer

SMITH, Helmer. Boo, Stockholms län 26.4.1882 — 9.1.1956. Swedish Indologist. Professor in Uppsala. Son of an engineer, Henning Smith (of distant British origin), and Fanny Sehlstedt (d. 1929). Matriculated from Stockholm in 1900. Studies at Uppsala: fil.kand. 1904, fil.lic. 1908. In 1909-20 further studies in Berlin, Paris (Bloch) and Copenhagen (Andersen). In 1921-35 Docent of Indology at Lund, acting Professor in 1924, 1927-28, 1930-31. In 1936-47 Professor of Sanskrit and Comparative Lin­guistics at Uppsala. Hon. Ph.D 1925 Lund. Married 1923 with Ellen Westerblad (d. 1971).

Helmer Smith was, as a student of Andersen, mainly a Pāli scholar, also familiar with Sinhalese (important article in 1950). He was a skilled linguist who also knew some Hindi, Tamil, Old Norse, Slavic, Fenno-Ugrian and Semitic (and of course Latin and Greek). Known as a specialist of metrics, a sharp critic and meticulous scholar. He never took a Ph.D. and published little of his wide learning. The Saddanīti with its indices, concordances and appendices gave a solid basis for ancient Pāli grammar. Among his students were Aalto and Simonsson.

Publications: edited with D. Andersen: Sutta-nipāta. 1913; The Pāli Dhātupāṭha and the Dhātumañjūsā. Medd. Danske Vid. Selsk. 4:6. Copenh. 1921; Critical Pāli Dictionary. fasc. 1:1ff. 1924ff.; “Epilegomena” to vol. 1 of the C.P.D. 99 p. Copenhagen 1948.

edited: Khuddaka-Pāṭha with Paramatthajotikā. L. PTS 1915; Sutta-nipāta commentary. Being Paramatthajotikā II. 1-3. L. 1916-18 (PTS text series 128-130); Dhammapada Commentary. 1:1. L. PTS 1925; Aggavaṁsa, Saddanīti. 1-5:1. Lund 1928-54.

Four articles in BSL 33-36, 1932-35 dealing with Apabhraṁśa, Sinhalese and Hindi.

– “W. Geiger et le vocabulaire singalais classique”, JA 238, 1950, 177-223.

– “Retractationes rhytmicae”, StO 16:5, 1951, 37 p.; “Analecta rhytmica”, StO 19:7, 1953 (Fs. Räsänen), 17 p.

Inventaire rythmique des Pūrva-Mīmāṁsā-sūtra. 141 p. U.U.Å. 1953:8.

– “En marge du vocabulaire sanskrit des bouddhistes”, Or.Suec. 2, 1953, 119-128 & 3, 1954, 31-35 & 4, 1955, 109-113.

Sources: Björn Collinder, Sv. Dagblad 11.1.1956 & Kungl. vitterhets, historie och ant. akademiens årsbok 1956, 55-59, with photo; H. Hendriksen, Cr. Pali Dict. II, 1960, v-viii; Peiris, Buddhism. 226-229 with photo from Sardesai; S. W[i]k[ande]r, Svenska män och kvinnor 7, 1954, 110f.; Uppsala Univ. matrikel 1937–1950 (with bibliogr.); Swedish Wikipedia with bibliography.


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