William Dwight Whitney

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William Dwight Whitney

William Dwight Whitney [ ˈwɪtni ] (born  February 9, 1827 in Northampton , Massachusetts , †  June 7, 1894 in New Haven , Connecticut ) was an American orientalist and Sanskritist .


Whitney studied from 1849 at Yale College in Newhaven and from 1850 to 1853 at the University of Berlin under Albrecht Weber and at the University of Tübingen under Rudolf von Roth oriental languages, especially Sanskrit . In 1854 he received the professorship of Sanskrit and comparative philology at Yale College in Newhaven and was appointed librarian of the American Oriental Society in Boston in 1856 and its corresponding secretary in 1857. His remark on the difficulty of dating in Indian history has become well known : "All dates given in Indian literary history are, as it were, cones that can be knocked over."

Whitney was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1860 , from 1873 he was a corresponding member of the Royal Prussian Academy of Sciences and from 1875 of the Russian Academy of Sciences in Saint Petersburg . In 1892 he became an Honorary Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh .



  • Language and its study. New York 1867; German from Jolly, Munich 1874; in abbreviated form ed. from Morris, London 1876; 4th ed. 1884.
  • German grammar. New York 1869.
  • German reader. New York 1870 (with notes and vocabulary).
  • Oriental and linguistic studies. New York 1872, second series 1874.
  • The life and growth of language. London 1875; German by August Leskien , Leipzig 1876.
  • Sanskrit grammar. London 1889; German by Heinrich Zimmer , Leipzig 1879, with an appendix.
  • The roots, verbal forms and primary stems of the Sanskrit language. German by Heinrich Zimmer, Leipzig 1885.
  • Letter german grammar. 1885.
  • A practical French grammar with exercises and illustrative sentences from French authors. New York / Boston 1886.
  • Key to Whitney's French grammar. New York / Boston 1886.
  • Practical French, taken from the author's larger grammar, and supplemented by conversations and idiomatic phrases. New York / Boston 1887.
  • A letter French grammar. New York / Boston 1891.
  • with MP Whitney: Introductory French reader. New York / Boston 1891.

He also published the Atharva Veda (with Rudolf von Roth , Berlin 1856), translated and explained the Sûrya Siddhânra and Atharva Veda Prâtiçâkhya (in the Journal of the American Oriental Society, Vol. 6 and 8) and made important contributions to the St. Petersburg Sanskrit dictionary as well as an index verborum to the published text of the Atharva Veda (Newhaven 1881).


  • Grammar from the Mahabharata. An appendix to William Dwight Whitney's grammar. Breitkopf & Härtel, Leipzig 1884.
  • Ernst Windisch: History of Sanskrit Philology and Indian Classical Studies. 2 volumes. Trübner, Strasbourg 1917/1920.
  • Stephen G. Alter: William Dwight Whitney and the Science of Language. Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore 2005, ISBN 0-8018-8020-3 .

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Fellows Directory. Biographical Index: Former RSE Fellows 1783–2002. (PDF file) Royal Society of Edinburgh, accessed April 22, 2020 .