Dr. John Crawfurd

1783 - 1868

Colonial administrator and orientalist. Born on Islay, the son of a physician, Crawfurd studied medicine at the University of Edinburgh, graduating in 1803 and entered the British East India Company as a surgeon.

He served in India's Northwestern Provinces (1803-08) and was then transferred to Penang, where he studied the Malay language and culture. In 1821, he served as an envoy to Siam (Thailand) and Cochin-China (Vietnam). He was appointed to administer Singapore in 1823 after Sir Stamford Raffles had ousted the first administrator, William Farquhar (1774 - 1839), although Raffles, a consummate meddler, found fault with Crawford's administration too. His last mission was to Burma in 1827.

Crawfurd undertook detailed study of the countries he visited. His works include a History of the Indian Archipelago (1820), a Descriptive Dictionary of the Indian Islands and Adjacent Countries (1856), Journal of an Embassy to the Court of Ava in 1827 (1829), Journal of an Embassy to the Courts of Siam and Cochin-China (1830), Taxes on Knowledge (1836), in which he attacked new taxes imposed in India, and a Malay dictionary (1852).

He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society, the Linnean Society and the Geographical Society, and became President of the Ethnological Society in 1861. Crawfurd died at South Kensington (London) and is remembered by a stained glass window in St. Andrew's Cathedral in Singapore.

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