1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Birch, Samuel
|←Birbhum|| 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica, Volume 3
|See also Samuel Birch on Wikipedia, and our 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica disclaimer.|
BIRCH, SAMUEL (1813-1885), English Egyptologist and antiquary, was born on the 3rd of November 1813, being the son of the rector of St Mary Woolnoth, London. From an early age he manifested a tendency to the study of out-of-the-way subjects, and after a brief employment in the Record Office obtained in 1836 an appointment in the antiquities department of the British Museum on account of his knowledge of Chinese. He soon extended his researches to Egyptian, and when the cumbrous department came to be divided he was appointed to the charge of the Egyptian and Assyrian branch. In the latter language he had assistance, but for many years there was only one other person in the institution—in a different department— who knew anything of ancient Egyptian, and the entire arrangement of the department devolved upon Birch. He found time nevertheless for Egyptological work of the highest value, including a hieroglyphical grammar and dictionary, translations of The Book of the Dead and the Harris papyrus, and numerous catalogues and guides. He further wrote what was long a standard history of pottery, investigated the Cypriote syllabary, and proved by various publications that he had not lost his old interest in Chinese. Paradoxical in many of his views on things in general, he was sound and cautious as a philologist; while learned and laborious, he possessed much of the instinctive divination of genius. He died on the 27th of December 1885.