Buitenen, J. A. B. van (Johannes Adrianus Bernardus), 1928-1979

Alternative names
Birth 1928-05-21
Death 1979-09-21

Biographical notes:

Johannes Adrianus Bernardus "Hans" van Buitenen (b. May 21, 1928, d. September 21, 1979) was a Dutch-born scholar of Sanskrit and Indian religion and literature. He was researcher and professor of Sanskrit and Indic Studies at the University of Chicago from 1957 until his death in 1979.

Van Buitenen was born and educated in The Hague, Netherlands. He concentrated in Classics at Gymnasium, while also studying French, German, and English. He received his university education at the University of Utrecht, concentrating in Indo-Iranian and Indonesian Letters. In May of 1948 he attained Candidacy in Indo-Iranian Letters, cum laude, with Candidacy in Indonesian letters following in September of that year. In July of 1951 he completed the Doctoral examination in Indo-Iranian Letters, specializing in Vedic Sanskrit with secondary competencies in Pali, Modern Persian, and Old and Modern Javanese. He received his doctorate in 1953, with a thesis entitled Ramanuja on the Baghavadgita. An assistantship to the chair of Indo-European Philology at Utrecht followed.

In 1952, van Buitenen married Cornelia Maria Krapels; they had two children, Hans, Jr. and Jeanette. They were divorced in the mid-1970s and van Buitenen later married Georgette Meredith.

Between 1954 and 1956, van Buitenen spent 18 months at Deccan College in Poona, India, as a sub-editor of a Sanskrit dictionary. During his time there, he was able to witness the enactment of a Vajapeya sacrifice, one of the Soma Vedic sacrifices. Van Buitenen intended to produce a book of photographs and a documentary film of the sacrifice; while there is evidence of an educational film being shown at American universities in the early 1960s, the book project did not come to fruition.

In 1957 van Buitenen came to the University of Chicago, first as a research associate, then as assistant professor of Sanskrit and Indic Studies. In 1964 he was promoted to Professor, and in 1966 became Chair of the Department of South Asian Languages and Civilizations, a position he held for ten years. During his tenure at Chicago, he continued to work overseas, as a Reader of Indian philosophy at Utrecht (1959-1961), and in collaborations on a Pali Dictionary with the Royal Danish Academy in 1960. He spent time in India in 1965, as a Fullbright fellow, and again in 1967-1968 as a senior fellow at the American Institute of Indic Studies in New Delhi. In June 1979, the University created an endowed chair for van Buitenen, and he was named George V. Bobrinskoy Distinguished Service Professor.

Van Buitenen's published works include Tales of ancient India, translated from the Sanskrit (University of Chicago Press, 1959), The Maitrayaniya Upanisad; a Critical Essay, with Text, Translation, and Commentary ('s-Gravenhage, Mouton, 1962), The Pravargya, an ancient Indian iconic ritual (Poona, Deccan College Postgraduate and Research Institute, 1968), Two plays of ancient India: The little clay cart, The minister's seal; translated from Sanskrit and Prakrit (Columbia University Press, 1968), A Source Book of Advaita Vedānta (with Eliot Deutsch, University Press of Hawaii, 1971), The Mahābhārata (University of Chicago press, 1973), Classical Hindu Mythology : a Reader in the Sanskrit Puränas (with Cornelia Dimmitt, Temple University Press, 1978).

Van Buitenen died on September 21, 1979 in Champaign, Illinois, following a short illness.

From the guide to the Buitenen, J. A. B. van. Papers, 1946-1978, (Special Collections Research Center University of Chicago Library 1100 East 57th Street Chicago, Illinois 60637 U.S.A.)


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