Max Muller

Other names: 

Max Müller, Max Mueller

Friedrich Max Muller

Date of birth: 
06 Dec 1823
City of birth: 
Country of birth: 
Date of death: 
28 Sep 1900
Location of death: 
Oxford, England

7 Norham Gardens, Oxford


Friedrich Max Müller was a Sanskritist at the University of Oxford in the late nineteenth century. Having spent some time in Paris, Müller travelled to London in 1846 for a short research trip. In 1848, he decided to settle in Oxford having had his edition of Rig Veda printed by the University Press. He became a naturalized British citizen in 1855.

From 1851, Müller held various positions in the University of Oxford. In 1860, he competed against Monier Monier-Williams for the position of Boden Professor of Sanskrit. Although Müller's body of scholarship exceeded Monier-Williams', the issue of Müller's Liberal Lutheranism and German ethnicity came to the fore in the campaign and he was defeated by Monier-Williams. Despite the huge disappointment, Müller continued to pursue his studies in Sanskrit and the Vedas, and was widely known and respected in India.

Müller delivered a number of lectures, and wrote many essays and books on Indian religion and spirituality. He cultivated a number of friendships with Indians through correspondence and their visits to Oxford. In particular, he became very close to Keshub Chunder Sen and interested in the Brahmo Samaj - which Müller saw as the natural sect of Christianity. He was also extremely concerned about the practice of child marriage in India, a concern he shared with Behramji Malabari and Pandita Ramabai, who both visited him in Oxford. Müller felt compelled to comment upon the case of the the child-bride, Rukhmabai, by sending a letter to The Times in 1887.

Published works: 

The Languages of the Seat of War in the East: With a Survey of the Three Families of Language, Semitic, Arian and Turanian (London: Williams and Norgate, 1855)

A History of Ancient Sanskrit Literature: So Far as it Illustrates the Primitive Religion of the Brahmans (London: Williams and Norgate, 1859)

Chips from a German Workshop (London: Longmans, 1867)

The Science of Thought (London: Longmans, 1887)

Biographies of Words and the Home of the Aryas (London: Longmans, 1888)

Buddhist Mahâyâna Texts (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1894)

Collected Works, 18 volumes (London: Longmans, 1898)

(trans. and ed.) The Sacred Books of the East, 51 volumes (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1879-1910)

My Autobiography: A Fragment (London: Longmans, 1901)

Contributions to periodicals: 


Nineteenth Century

Various letters to the editor in The Times, including 24 November 1880, 22 August 1887, 6 September 1887

Secondary works: 

Bosch, Lourens van den, Friedrich Max Müller: A Life Devoted to Humanities (Leiden: Brill, 2002)

Chaudhuri, Nirad C., Scholar Extraordinary: The Life of Professor the Rt Hon. Friedrich Max Muller (London: Chatto & Windus, 1974)

Fynes, R. C. C., 'Müller, Friedrich Max (1823–1900)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford University Press, 2007) []

Müller, Georgina (ed.), The Life and Letters of the Right Honourable Friedrich Max Müller (London: Longmans, 1902)

Stone, Jon R. (ed.), The Essential Max Müller (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2002)

Archive source: 

Letters, notebooks and family papers, Bodleian Archives, Oxford