Papers of Laurence Austine Waddell

Scope and Content

"On the Discovery of the Buddha's Birthplace by L.A. Waddell". A notebook with black cover into which Waddell has pasted several articles concerning his attempts to find the birthplace of Buddha. These are entitled and annotated by him by hand. The articles included are:

  • "The Discovery of the Birthplace of the Buddha" from the Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society, 1897, pp.644-651
  • "Where is the Birthplace of Buddha?" from the Englishman, 1 June 1896
  • "A Tibetan Guide-book to the lost Sites of the Buddha's Birth and Death" from the Journal of the Asiatic Society of Bengal, 1896, pp. 275-279
  • Editorial Note from the Englishman, 1 June 1896
  • "Who found Buddha's Birthplace?" from The Pioneer Mail, 29 October 1897
  • "Who Found Buddha's Birthplace?" - a reply to Dr Führer's letter, from the Englishman, 30 November 1897
  • "Christian Tombs in the North-Western Provinces and Oudh" from The Pioneer, 22 September 1897
  • "The Birthplace of the Buddha" by Sir George Birdwood, from The Times, 9 September 1897

It appears from the title page of the book that Waddell prepared this volume especially for the Royal Asiatic Society in February 1898.

Administrative / Biographical History

Laurence Austine Waddell was born in Glasgow, where he was educated, obtaining a bachelor's degree in Medicine followed by a master's degree in both Surgery and Chemistry at Glasgow University in 1878. In 1879 he visited Ceylon and Burma which sparked his interest in Buddhism. In 1880 Waddell joined the British Indian Army and served as a medical officer with the Indian Medical Service. In 1881 he became a Professor of Chemistry and Pathology at the Medical College of Kolkata, India. While working in India, Waddell also studied Sanskrit and edited the Indian Medical Gazette. He became Assistant Sanitary Commissioner under the government of India.

Between 1885-1887 Waddell took part in the British expedition that annexed Upper Burma. After his return from Burma, Waddell was stationed in the Darjeeling district of India, and was appointed Principal Medical Officer in 1888.

Waddell travelled extensively through India in the 1890s including through Nepal, Sikkim, and the Tibetan border, researching Buddhist practices. He learnt Tibetan and made several secret visits there. He also collected Buddhist antiquities and was concerned with the quest to discover the birthplace of Buddha. He also continued his medical practice with the Indian Medical Service including serving in the Boxer Rebellion in China. He was in Malakand in 1902 and part of the Tibetan Mission to Lhasa in 1903-4.

He returned to England and was Professor of Tibetan at University College, London. from 1906-1908. In 1908, Waddell started to learn Sumerian and spent the later years of his life studying Near East culture and Indo-European language origins. He died in 1938.

Conditions Governing Access

Open. Please contact the archivist. nc@royalasiaticsociety.org The archive is open on Tuesdays and Fridays 10-5, and Thursdays 2-5. Access is to any researcher without appointment but it will help if an appointment is made via phone or email. Please bring photo ID.

Acquisition Information

Waddell compiled the book in February 1898 and presented it to the Society as an additional reference to his article in the 1897 Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society.

Archivist's Note

This material was catalogued by Nancy Charley, RAS Archivist, in 2019.

Conditions Governing Use

Digital photography (without flash) for research purposes may be permitted upon completion of a copyright declaration form, and with respect to current UK copyright law.

Custodial History

The book was collated by Laurence Waddell and given to the Royal Asiatic Society.

Related Material

Our Library Collections hold several books authored by Waddell. Full details can be found in the Online catalogue . Waddell also donated a manuscript of the Pañcakathana. Details of this can also be found in our online catalogue.

Geographical Names