Ernest Bender, January 2, 1919-April 19, 1996
Riccardi, Theodore, Jr., The Journal of the American Oriental Society
Ernest Bender died quietly at his home in Edgmont, Pennsylvania on April 19, 1996. He was seventy-seven years old. A life long bachelor, he left no immediate survivors. His many friends, students, and colleagues mourn his passing deeply.
Ernest Bender was born in Argentina in 1919. When he was four, his family left for the United States and settled in Philadelphia. He attended Temple University, where he majored in classical languages and began the study of Romance and Germanic philology.
In 1941, he entered the University of Pennsylvania for graduate study. There he met the three teachers who were to have the deepest influence upon him: W. Norman Brown in Indology, and Zellig Harris and Henry Hoenigswald in linguistics. All three were to remain his lifelong friends and colleagues. With Brown's encouragement, he chose a career in Indology, and Brown became his dissertation supervisor and chief mentor. It was through his long association with Brown that Bender developed his lifelong interest in Jainism, in its literature, painting, and languages.
Bender's career was interrupted by World War II. He served first in the United States Air Force. In 1943-44 he served as instructor in Hindi and Urdu in the Army Specialized Training Program and from 1944 to 1946 he was the coordinator of the Army Specialized Training Program in Japanese. At the same time, he was awarded two successive Harrison fellowships at the University of Pennsylvania for the study of Sanskrit. Along with his interest in Indology, he continued to work in linguistics with Harris, and co-authored with him two articles on the Cherokee language. An unpublished manuscript of Cherokee texts with translations and grammatical analysis is in the Boas Collection in the Library of the American Philosophical Society. It dates from this early period of his work.
In 1947-48, Bender was appointed a fellow of the Rockefeller Foundation, and made his first trip to India, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka. These were the early days of Indian independence, and he traveled widely, photographing much of what he saw, and copying the medieval Jain manuscripts that were the beginning of the large archive that he formed during his career.
In 1950, Bender was appointed assistant professor at the University of Pennsylvania in the Department of Oriental Studies and in the new Department of South Asia Regional Studies. …