Friday, February 16, 2018

Author of the Day: Arthur Ryder

Arthur Ryder was one of the great English translators of Sanskrit, and many of his works are in the public domain now. For this class, there are two different Arthur Ryder reading options: his translation of Kalidasa's play Shakuntala and also his translation of the Sanskrit classic Vetālapañcaviṃśati, which he entitles Twenty-Two Goblins.

Arthur William Ryder was born in Ohio in 1877 and, after receiving his undergraduate degree from Harvard in 1897, he went to Berlin to study Sanskrit. He then returned to the United States and became an instructor of both Sanskrit and German at the University of California at Berkeley. A new "Department of Sanskrit" was created at Berkeley, a department in which Ryder was the only professor. One of his most famous students at Berkeley was J. Robert Oppenheimer who famously quoted from the Bhagavad-Gita during the Trinity Test of the world's first atomic bomb.

Ryder died in 1938 of a heart attack while he was teaching a Sanskrit class. That was a fitting end to the life of someone who had dedicated himself so completely to the study and teaching of Sanskrit language and literature.

You can read more about Ryder in this Wikipedia article, which is also the source for the portrait shown below:

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