SMITH, WILLIAM ( 1846-94 ). A distinguished Semitic scholar, known as Robertson Smith. He was born at New Farm, Keig, Aber deenshire. He was educated privately by his fathgr, a minister of the Free Church of Scot land, and at Aberdeen University, where he was graduated in 1865. Having chosen the ministry as his profession at an early age, he entered New College, Edinburgh, in 1866 as a student of theology. During his theological course be spent two summers in Germany, at Bonn and Gottin gen, where he heard the lectures and made the acquaintance of Bertheau. Lotze, Ritsehl, and others of the foremost scholars of the time. He was particularly influenced by Ritsehl, who in turn bore testimony to his pupil's ability. While still a student he was appointed assistant pro fessor of natural philosophy in the University of Edinburgh, and in 1870 became professor of Oriental languages and exegesis of the Old Testa ment in the Free Church College at Aberdeen. During the summer of 1872 he was again in Ger many, studied Arabic with Lagarde, and became acquainted with Fleischer, Wellhausen, and other prominent Orientalists. In 1S75 he became a member of the Old Testament revision commit tee. When the ninth edition of the Encyrlopaylia Britannica was undertaken in 1870 Professor Smith was chosen as the contributor of articles upon Old Testament subjects. His arti cles "Angels" and "Bible" (both published in 1875) aroused suspicion and hostility in the Church. A committee was appointed by the General Assembly in 1S76 to investigate, and, after much discussion and protracted proceed ings, Professor Smith was dismissed from his chair in June, 1881. The ease is a famous one;
its practical outcome was to popularize and establish the scholarly methods and most of the views which he represented in both Scotland and England. While his ease was pending he spent two winters in the East, visiting Egypt, Pales tine. Syria. and Arabia. From his dismissal till 1888 he was associated with Professor Baynes as editor of the Britannica; the success ful completion of the work was due in no small degree to his efficient management. At the same time he continued his Semitic studies with un flagging zeal and most valuable results. In 1883 he succeeded Edward Henry Palmer as Lord Almoner's professor of Arabic at Cambridge; in 1886 he was elected chief librarian of the uni versity, and in 1889 he succeeded William Wright as Adams professor of Arabic. He died at Cam bridge.
Besides numerous papers in scientific period icals and his articles in the Britannic(' he pub lished: What History Teaches Us to Look for in the Bible (1S70) : The Old Testament in the Jewish Church (1SS1 ; 2d ed. 1892) ; The Proph ets of Israel (1882; 2d ed. 1S95) ; Kinship and Harriage in Early Arabia (1885). In 1888-90 he gave three series of lectures at Aberdeen (the Burnett lectures) upon the theme, "The Primi Live Religions of the Semitic Peoples Viewed in Relation to Other Ancient Religions and to the Spiritual Religion of the Old Testament and Christianity." The first series only was pub lished under the title, The Religion of the Semites; Fundamental Institutions (1889; 2d ed. 1894).