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William Carey: Baptist Missionary

William CareyWilliam Carey, Baptist missionary and Orientalist; born at Paulerspury, Northamptonshire, England, August 17, 1761; died at Serampur, India, June 9, 1834. By baptism a member of the Established Church, he was early in life convinced of the Scriptural authority for the Baptist views, and joined this sect, in which he soon became a preacher. His congregations were very poor, and he supported himself and family by shoemaking. But his thirst for knowledge was strong; and he managed, notwithstanding the pressure of poverty, to acquire Latin, Greek, Hebrew, and a goodly amount of other useful learning, especially in natural history and botany.

His attention was turned to the heathen, and he saw plainly his duty to go to them. On October 2, 1792, largely through his exertions, the first Baptist missionary society was founded; and on June 13, 1793, he and his family sailed for India, accompanied by John Thomas, who had formerly lived in Bengal. On reaching Bengal early in 1794, Carey and his companion lost all their property in the Hugli; but, having received the charge of an indigo-factory at Malda, he cut off his pecuniary connection with the missionary society, and began in earnest what, instead of regular missionary labor, was to be the work of his life -- the study of and translation both from and into the languages of India.

In 1799 the factory was closed; and he went with Thomas to Kidderpur, where he had purchased a small indigo-plantation. Here, joined by Marshman and Ward, he started, under bright hopes, a mission, but soon encountered the opposition of the Indian government, which forbade the mission's enlargement, and compelled its removal, at a great pecuniary loss, to Serampur, a Danish settlement (1800), where it took a fresh lease of life. For some time Carey and Thomas had been diligently at work upon a version of the New Testament in Bengali. In 1801 it was published by the press Carey instituted.

About the same time the Marquis of Wellesley appointed him professor of Oriental languages in the Fort William College, which the marquis had founded at Calcutta for the instruction of the younger members of the British Indian civil service. Carey held this position for thirty years, and taught Bengali, Mahrati, and Sanskrit. He wrote articles upon the natural history and botany of India for the Asiatic Society, to which he was elected, 1805, and thus made practical application of acquisitions of former years; but this was only a part, and by far the less valuable part, of his work. That which has given him his undying fame was his translation of the Bible, in whole or in part, either alone or with others, into some twenty-six Indian languages. The Serampur press, under his direction, rendered the Bible accessible to more than three hundred million human beings. Besides, he prepared grammars and dictionaries of several tongues; e.g., Mahratta Grammar, 1805; Sanscrit Grammar, 1806; Mahratta Dictionary, 1810; Bengalee Dictionary, 1818; and a dictionary of all Sanskrit-derived languages, which unhappily was destroyed by a fire in the printing establishment in 1812 ... all honor is due to Carey for "breaking the way," and every inhabitant of India is his debtor.

Bibliography: John Taylor, Biographical and Literary Notices of William Carey. Bibliographical Notices of Works..., Northampton, 1886; J. C. Marshman, Life and Times of Carey, Marshman and Ward, 2 vols., London, 1859; J. Culross, William Carey, New York, 1882; George Smith, Life of William Carey, London, 1887; H. O. Dwight, H. A. Tupper, and E. M. Bliss, Encyclopedia of Missions, pp. 133-134, New York, 1904; DNB, ix. 77.

From The New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge... New York: Funk and Wagnalls Company, 1908.

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