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Buddhist Famous Characters

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The Western Contribution to

William Peiris
(1973) Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass Publications.





Author’s Note
General Introduction


Biographical Sketches
1. T.W. Rhys Davids
2. Mrs. C.A.F. Rhys Davids
3. F. Max Muller
4. Sir Edwin Arnold
5. Lord Chalmers
6. F.L. Woodward
7. E.M. Hare
8. George Turnour
9. Nanamoli Thera
10. E.J. Thomas
11. W.F. Stede
12. Robert Childers
13. Miss I.B. Horner
14. Amanda Metteyya Thera
15. Bhikku Silacara
16. Sangharakshita Sthavira
17. Ernest Shinkaru Hunt
18. Edward Conze
19. Christmas Humphreys
20. Francis J. Payne
21. John Walters
22. Francis Story

CHAPTER III GERMANY: A Brief Survey Biographical Sketches

23. Arthur Schopenhauer
24. Hermann Oldenberg
25. George Grimm
26. Paul Dahlke
27. K.E. Neumann
28. Karl Seidenstucker
29. Friedrich Zimmermann
30. Hans Much
31. Wilhelm Geiger
32. Moritz Winternitz
33. Erich Frauwallner
34. Gustav Mensching
35. H. von Glasenapp
36. Mrs. Maya Keller-Grimm
37. Max Hoppe
38. Mrs. Emily Knothe
39. Sigurd Schoenwerth
40. Nyanatiloka Maha Thera
41. Nyanaponika Maha Thera
42. Nyanasatta Maha Thera
43. Fritz Hungerleider
44. Max Wallerser
45. Sister Uppalavanna
46. Friedrich Spiegel
47. Albrecht Weber
48. Kurt Scimidt
49. Martin Steinke
50. Kurt Fischer
51. Max Ladner
52. Lionel Stuetzer
53. Anton Kropatsch
54. Paul Debes
55. Helmuth Hecker
56. Hermann Kopp
57. Lama Govinda

Biographical Sketches
58. Eugene Burnouf
59. Sylvain Levi
60. Louis de la Vallee Poussin
61. Alenxandra David-Neel
Biographical Sketches
62. Critical Pali Dictionary
63. Rasmus Kristian Rask
64. Viggo Fausball
65. V. Trenckner
66. Dines Andersen
67. Poul Tuxen
Biographical Sketches
68. Hendrik Kern
Biographical Sketches
69. Giuseppe de Lorenzo
70. Guiseppe Tucci
71. U. Lokanatha Thera
Biographical Sketches
72. Helmer Smith
Biographical Sketches
73. Archbishop Tennisons
Biographical Sketches
74. Stcherbatsky
Biographical Sketches
75. Harvard Oriental Series
76. Henry Clarke Warren
77. Paul Carus
78. Charles Rockwell Lanman
79. Eugene Watson Burlingame
80. W.Y. Evans-Wentz
81. Henry Steele Olcott
82. Mrs. Marie Musaeus Higgins
83. Dwight Goddard
84. Winston L. King
85. E.A. Burtt
86. Mrs. Mary Mikahala Foster
87. Richard A. Gard
88. Kenneth K.S. Ch’en
89. Maxwell Somerville
Appendix: Pali Text Society



 The author expresses his gratitude to the following for granting him permission to use their copyright material: The American Council of Learned Societies, New York; The American Oriental Society, New York; The British Academy, London; Bruno Cassirer (Publishers) Ltd., Oxford; Charles Scribner’s Sons, (Publishers of the Dictionary of American Biography), New York; Critical Pali Dictionary, Copenhagen, Denmark; Harvard University Press; Harvard Oriental Series; Harvard University Archives; Indisch-Ostansiastiche Seminar der Philipps-Universitat, Marburg, Germany; Indologisches Seminar der Universitat, Gottingham, Germany; Pali Text Society, London; Sudasian-Institut der Universitat Heidelberg, Heidelberg, Germany; The Open Court Publishing Company, Chicago, U.S.A.; University of Chicago Press; Westminster Press, Philadelphia; The Times, London; and Akademie-Verlag, Berlin, Germany.

The author is also grateful to various authors whose names and titles of their works appear in the text and footnotes of this book in connection with quotations and paraphrases from their books.



William Peiris has devoted his life to literary pursuits in Ceylon, fulfilling the positions of journalist, editor, writer, and radio broadcaster. More than this, he has done much to awaken an interest in Buddhism from the angle of Western contributors in this vast field.

Last year his paperback on Sir Edwin Arnold – torchbearer of Buddhism to the West by means of his epic poem, The Light of Asia – was published by the world-famous Buddhist Publication Society, Kandy, Ceylon.

Due, no doubt, to the formidable nature of the research that would be entailed, no one has yet compiled as comprehensive a work as the present one. It is true that some biographical sketches appeared at the end of 2500 Years of Buddhism, published by the Government of India to commemorate the Buddha Jayanti Year, 1956, but those were largely confined to Pali and Sanskrit scholars, including analyses of texts and edited or translated by them. The multitude of names normally associated with the growth, spread and knowledge of Buddhism in the Occident was thus omitted.

The present work, therefore remedies a serious deficiency in our knowledge of Buddhist endeavours in Europe and North America. The author clearly deserves our admiration and respect for the great efforts that have been undertaken to complete this thesis. No doubt, individual biographies were to be had for the mere asking, but, nevertheless, most writers would have found the task of compilation from numberless sources that daunting even to consider. There is no doubt in my mind that the author’s dedication to the Buddhadamma induced him to persevere to the end.

Virtually all the Western European countries, together with the U.S.A., have made a distinct contribution towards a furtherance of Buddhist studies, and Mr. Peiris has endeavoured to include in this work almost all those concerned over a period of one and a half centuries.

A fascinating chronicle, this work should become a text-book for all wishing to pursue a study of Buddhist History.

 The London Buddhist Vihara, London.

  H. Saddhatissa




The idea of this book originated with a friend and colleague of mine, the late M.T. Jaimon, a former editor of The Times of Ceylon. A Muslim by religion, he was a serious student of Buddhism and admired Western scholars of Buddhism. At his invitation I wrote an article on the Western contribution to Buddhism for his newspaper. He then suggested that I write a book on the same theme. I placed his suggestion before Miss I.B. Horner, President, Pali Text Society, London, who readily commended it. Another distinguished orientalist, Professor G. Tucci of Rome, has also commended it.

The work involved me in considerable research. In the collection of material from Britain, the continent, and America, I have had the generous assistance of a number of distinguished scholars, active Buddhist workers, learned societies, and other institutions. Miss Horner herself supplied me with details about some of the British scholars, obtained for me the help of a few German scholars, and made valuable suggestions, for which I offer her my most grateful thanks.

I am indebted to Mrs. Maya Keller-Grimm, daughter of George Grimm, the celebrated interpreter of Buddhism; Max Hoppe, his devoted disciple; and Mrs. Emily Knothe, all of the Altbuddhistische Geinde, Utting am Ammersee, Germany, for obtaining for me material about German scholars. I am specially thankful to Mrs. Knothe for her translations from the German into English.

The invaluable services rendered to me by Prof. Winston L. King of Vanderbilt University, United States, and Lt.-Col. E.F.J. Payne of Sussex, U.K., have placed me very much in their debt.

Prof. Hans Hendriksen, the then Editor of Critical Pali Dictionary, Denmark, detailed Mrs. Else Pauly, a distinguished member of his editorial staff, to assist me. She went out of her way to dig into past records in the big libraries of Denmark to be of assistance to me. To them I am deeply grateful.

Likewise, Prof. Wilfrid C. Smith, Head of the Department of Religion, Harvard University, detailed a don of his department, Prof. Masatoshi Nagatomi, to assist me. I am thankful to them.

I am particularly thankful to my friend, Ashley Perera of Nugegoda, Ceylon, and Dr. Brooks Wright of New York – the former for placing his magnificent library at my disposal and the latter for readily giving me permission to use his copyright material.

The others whom I desire to thank for services rendered to me are: Prof. Daniel H.H. Ingalls, Editor of the Harvard Oriental Series; Mr. H. Butterfield, Registrar, Peterhouse, Cambridge; Dr. F.H. Stubbings of Emmanuel College, Cambridge; the Ven. Nyanaponika Maha Thera, Head of the Forest Hermitage, Kandy, Ceylon; the Ven Dr. H. Saddhatissa Maha Thera, Head of the London Buddhist Vihara; Mr.Russell Webb of the London Maha Bodhi Society; Fraulein Ilse Seidenstucker, daughter of the famous Dr. Karl Seidenstucker of Leipzig, Germany; Mrs. Moodah, widow of M.T. Jaimon, of Nugegoda, Ceylon; Mr. J. Ginige of Ambalangoda, Ceylon; Mr. D.G.S. Wanigaratne of Mt. Lavinia, Ceylon; Mr. Tikiri Dissanayake of Colombo, Ceylon; my wife, and my daughters, Mrs. I. Dharmasena, Mrs. Rohini Gunatunga, Miss Savitri Peiris, Miss Surangani Peiris, B.A. (Ceylon), and Miss Manjari Peiris, and Mr. W.B. Somaratne.

My task was made easy by my friend, Winston I. Rodrigo, who edited my script with his characteristic thoroughness. He bears no responsibility for any defects that remain.

To the publishers I owe a special debt of gratitude for their co-operation.

Finally, it must be stated that this is by no means a scholarly work. As a journalist I have written this book to place on record in an integrated form, and to communicate to as many as possible, the facts of the massive contribution of the West to the understanding of Buddhism.

Republic of Sri Lanka 







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