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Stanley Insler, long-serving faculty member and scholar of Sanskrit

January 9, 2019

Stanley Insler

Article in YaleNews In Memoriam, January 9, 2019

Stanley Insler, the Edward E. Salisbury Professor Emeritus of Sanskrit and Comparative Philology at Yale, died on Jan. 5 at Yale New Haven Hospital. He was 82.

Insler was considered to be the preeminent Sanskritist of his generation, and a scholar who made major contributions to the field of historical linguistics.

Insler was born on June 23, 1937 in New York City and received his B.A. from Columbia College in 1957. He did postgraduate studies at the University of Tübingen (1960-1962), carried out research at the University of Madras, and received his Ph.D. from Yale University in 1963. In the same year he became a member of the faculty at Yale where he remained until his retirement in 2012. Insler served as chair of the Department of Linguistics 1978-1989.

Insler wrote extensively about the literatures and languages of ancient India and Iran, Sanskrit classical and epic poetry, and Pali and Prakrit texts. His interests were wide ranging — from religious history and textual interpretation, rhythmic patterns and effects, foundational issues of semantics, morphology, and phonology.

Among his many achievements, Insler is known for his translation of the Gathas, the sacred text of the Zoroastrians. His translation made this classic text accessible to many Parsees, or modern Zoroastrians, many of whom live in London and Bombay. Long-time treasurer of the American Oriental Society, Insler was an active fellow of Jonathan Edwards College and a participant at the Henry Koerner Center for Emeritus Faculty.

Stanley Insler was the very embodiment of the long tradition of linguistics at Yale, and was a much-valued and esteemed colleague during his 49 years on the faculty,” said Robert Frank, professor and chair in the Department of Linguistics. “He contributed abundantly to the field through his work on the history of Indo-Aryan languages and literature, and was beloved by the Yale community thanks to his inspiring teaching and refined wit. We mourn his loss.”

Insler received fellowships from the Ford Foundation and the Woodrow Wilson Foundation. He was a member of Société Asiatique, the Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland, the Philological Society, Deutsche Morgenländische Gesellschaft, the American Oriental Society (president 1997-1998), and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, among others.

Insler is survived by his sister Thelma (Toby) Koenigsberg; his nieces Carol Koenigsberg and Diane Edwards; his nephew Stuart Koenigsberg; and his life partner William C. Sanford.

A memorial service is planned for spring of 2019.