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George Law Campbell


1912 - 2004

Linguist and author. Born in Dingwall, the son of a gardener on the Seaforth Estates, Campbell was educated at the Academy in that town, where his interest in languages first developed. He went on to study German at the University of Edinburgh and in Leipzig. In 1937, he moved to the University of London, becoming Assistant Librarian at the School of Slavonic and East European Studies. Called to serve his country at the outbreak of World War II, he joined the BBC European Service where he supervised foreign language broadcasts.

He continued with the BBC organising the service provided to various European counties until his retiral in 1980. He went on to compile his two-volume Compendium of the World's Languages (1991) which described and geographically-located more than 250 languages.

Known for his detailed knowledge across the arts, music and science, his name appeared in the Guinness Book of Records in the 1980s recognising his ability to speak and write at least 44 languages fluently, with a working knowledge of some 20 more. He translated a range of academic works between European languages, but his abilities included the more unusual; several of the Native American languages, Basque, classical Chinese, Persian and Samaritan.

He died in Brighton (England).


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