Sir William Jones (1746-1794) is best known for his famous Third Discourse of 1786 in which he proposed that Sanskrit's affinity to Greek and Latin could be explained by positing a common, earlier source, one known today as Indo-European. This brilliant thesis laid the groundwork for modern comparative linguistics. Jones' interests and achievements, however, ranged far beyond language. He studied and made contributions to anthropology, archaeology, astronomy, botany, history, law, literature, music, physiology, politics, and religion. He served as a Supreme Court justice in India and founded the Asiatic Society, which stimulated world-wide interest in India and the Orient. He was friends with many of the leading intellectuals of his day and corresponded with Benjamin Franklin in America and with Burke, Gibbon, Johnson, Percy and Reynolds in Britain. In his short life he mastered so many languages that he was regarded even in his own time as a phenomenon, and so he was. Garland Cannon, editor of the much acclaimed The Letters of Sir William Jones, has written a new and definitive biography of this fascinating man, who in his life and works teaches us that the path to understanding and appreciating the art and literature of a great culture very different from our own is through devoted study, a tolerant spirit, and an unquenchably curious mind.
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