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Otto von Böhtlingk

Portrait von Otto Böhtlingk

Otto von Böhtlingk (30 May 1815 – 1 April 1904) was a German Indologist and Sanskrit scholar. His magnum opus was a Sanskrit dictionary.


He was born in Saint Petersburg, Russia. Having studied (1833–1835) Oriental languages, particularly Arabic, Persian and Sanskrit, at the University of Saint Petersburg, he continued his studies in Germany, first in Berlin and then (1839–1842) in Bonn.[1]

Returning to Saint Petersburg in 1842, he was attached to the Royal Academy of Sciences, and was elected an ordinary member of that society in 1855. In 1860 he was made Russian state councillor, and later privy councillor with a title of nobility. In 1868 he settled at Jena, and in 1885 moved to Leipzig, where he resided until his death.[1]


Böhtlingk was one of the most distinguished scholars of the nineteenth century,[citation needed] and his works are of pre-eminent value in the field of Indian and comparative philology.

His first great work was an edition of the Sanskrit grammar of Panini, Aṣṭādhyāyī, with a German commentary, under the title Acht Bücher grammatischer Regeln (Bonn, 1839–1840). This was in reality a criticism of Franz Bopp's philological methods.[1]

This work was followed by:[1]

  • Vopadevas Grammatik (Saint Petersburg, 1847)
  • Über die Sprache der Jakuten (Saint Petersburg, 1851)
  • Indische Sprüche, a series of Sanskrit apothegms and proverbial verses (2nd ed. in 3 parts, Saint Petersburg, 1870–1873, to which an index was published by Blau, Leipzig, 1893)
  • a critical examination and translation of Chandogya-upanishad (Saint Petersburg, 1889)
  • a translation of Brihad-Aranyaka-upanishad (Saint Petersburg, 1889)

His magnum opus was his great Sanskrit-German dictionary, Sanskrit-Wörterbuch (7 vols., Saint Petersburg, 1853–1875; shortened ed. (without citations) 7 vols, Saint Petersburg, 1879–1889), which with the assistance of his two friends, Rudolf Roth (d. 1895) and Albrecht Weber (b. 1825), was completed in 23 years.[1]

He also published several smaller treatises, notably one on Vedic accent, Über den Accent im Sanskrit (1843).[1] Also notable are his Sanskrit-Chrestomathie (Saint Petersburg, 1845; 2d ed., 1877–97), and an edition with translation of a treatise on Hindu poetics by Daṇḍin, Kāvyādarsa (Leipzig, 1890).[2] Böhtlingk took up Panini's grammar again, 47 years after his first edition, when he republished it with a complete translation under the title Panini's Grammatik mit Übersetzung (Leipzig, 1887).[1]

It has been suggested that, during the 1860s, Böhtlingk pointed out the periodicity of the Sanskrit alphabet to the Russian chemist Dmitry Mendeleev and thereby helped him in the formulation of the periodic table.[3] According to this suggestion, Mendeleev's use of the Sanskrit prefixes eka, dvi, and tri to name as yet undiscovered elements may be viewed as an homage to Sanskrit grammar and to the Sanskrit grammarian Pāṇini.


  • with Rudolph Roth, Sanskrit-Wörterbuch Saint Petersburg 1855-1875.
  • Sanskrit-Wörterbuch in kürzerer Fassung 1879-1889, reprint Buske Verlag, 1998, 2003, ISBN 3-87548-199-2
  • Panini's Grammatik 1887, reprint 1998 ISBN 3-87548-198-4
  • Indische Sprüche 3 volumes, Saint Petersburg, Akad. d. Wissenschaften, 1863-65.
  • Sanskrit-Chrestomathie, reprinted 1967.


  1. ^ a b c d e f g Chisholm 1911.
  2. ^ Gilman, D. C.; Peck, H. T.; Colby, F. M., eds. (1905). "Böhtlingk, Otto von" . New International Encyclopedia (1st ed.). New York: Dodd, Mead.
  3. ^ "The Grammar of the Elements". American Scientist. 2019-10-04. Retrieved 2019-10-19.



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