LATHAM, Robert Gordon. Billingborough, Lincolnshire 24.3.1812 — Putney 9.3.1888. British Ethnologist and Linguist. Son of Thomas L., a vicar, educated at Eton and Cambridge (B.A. 1832). Further studies in Copenhagen (under Rask) and Christiania (now Oslo). From 1839 Professor of English Language at University College, London, but soon turned to medicine and graduated from Royal College of Physicians in 1842. Worked in Middlesex Hospital until 1849, when he abandoned medical career and became director of the ethnological department of The Crystal Palace. Retired 1863, later often ill.
As ethnologist he was history-oriented, attempting to trace the origins of races and relationship between languages. In this he was helped with lively imagination and his work had no lasting importance. He opposed to Max Müller and located the IE Urheimat in Lithuania and wanted to minimize the role of Sanskrit in the development of Indian civilization.
Publications: Ethnology of India. 8+375 p. L. 1859 (extracted from his 2-vol. Descriptive Ethnology. L. 1859).
– “Date and Personality of Priyadarsi”, JRAS 17, 1860, 273–285.
– Elements of Comparative Philology. 32+774 p. L. 1862.
– Wrote on English language and philology, much on historical ethnology.
Sources: G. Th. Bettany, D.N.B. 32, 168f.; Wikipedia with portrait.
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