BELLEW, HENRY WALTER (1834-92), surgeon and amateur orientalist, born at Nāṣrābād in India, son of a captain in the Bengal army. After his medical studies in London and short service in the Crimean War he was gazetted assistant surgeon in the Bengal medical service. On his arrival in India in 1856 he was at once appointed to the Corps of Guides and sent on a political mission to Afghanistan. For the next 30 years, until his retirement with the rank of surgeon general in 1886, he served mainly in the Punjab and on the Afghan frontier. He was for several years civil surgeon in Peshawar but also served the government as interpreter and political agent on several occasions, finally as chief political officer in Kabul. Throughout his service he took a lively interest in the languages and ethnography of the peoples within his charge. Beside two works on cholera in India, he published several studies on the Pashtuns and Afghans, including a General Report on the Yusufzais (Lahore, 1864), Afghanistan and the Afghans (London, 1879), The Races of Afghanistan (Calcutta, 1880), and An Inquiry into the Ethnography of Afghanistan (Woking, 1891). In a description of a journey From the Indus to the Tigris (London, 1874) he included a grammar and vocabulary of the Brahui language of Baluchistan. His most lasting contribution to Iranian studies, however, was his Grammar and Dictionary of the Pukkhto or Pukshto Language (London, 1867, repr. Lahore, 1901). The latter, containing some 9,000 words, remained for a century the only practical dictionary of its sort (Pashto-English and English-Pashto) and has still not been entirely supplanted by modern Afghan publications.
(D. Neil MacKenzie)
Originally Published: December 15, 1989
Last Updated: December 15, 1989
This article is available in print.
Vol. IV, Fasc. 2, pp. 127-128