Campus & Community

Daniel Henry Holmes Ingalls

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Faculty of Arts and Sciences — Memorial Minute

Daniel H.H. Ingalls, Wales Professor of Sanskrit, Emeritus, was born in New York City on May 4, 1916. He attended Harvard College, and studied the Classics, including his first courses in Sanskrit with Walter E. Clark. While Ingalls’ father apparently expected Harvard to prepare his son to join the management of The Homestead in Hot Springs, Virginia, Daniel Ingalls’ years at Harvard gradually turned him to the lifelong study of Sanskrit philosophy and poetry. He graduated in 1936 with an A.B. cum laude in Classics. He thereupon enrolled in the Harvard Graduate School to study Sanskrit, Chinese, and Japanese, earned an A.M. in 1938, and was elected to a Junior Fellowship in the Society of Fellows (1939–42), where he continued his study of Sanskrit.

In 1941 he persuaded the Senior Fellows to send him to India, where he worked on Indian logic with M.M. Sri Kalipada Tarkacharya at the Sanskrit Research Institute in Calcutta. After Pearl Harbor he returned and entered the O.S.S. In 1942 he and his colleague Richard Frye traveled as civilians to Afghanistan, where his job in Kabul was to watch for contacts by Indians (then British subjects) with Axis agents. As cover he taught English at the Habibi Lycee and worked on his doctoral dissertation. The completed draft of the dissertation was sent home by diplomatic pouch, but was lost. After the war he rewrote it as his first book. He returned home in 1943, was commissioned in the Army, and spent the remainder of the war working on Japanese code-breaking in Military Intelligence near Washington.

After the war he was elected to a second term in the Society of Fellows (1946–49). Since Junior Fellows are permitted to do some teaching, he helped out with Sanskrit courses after the retirement of Walter E. Clark, his predecessor as Wales Professor, and in 1949 became an assistant professor, in 1954 associate professor, and in 1958 Wales Professor of Sanskrit, continuing in that post until his retirement in 1983.

While Ingalls was a dedicated teacher and scholar, he was not an empire builder. He remarked in a note to the president, “The less administration I have, the happier man I shall be.” During his tenure, the study of India was largely defined by classical studies. In 1951, however, he instigated a change in the name of the Department from Indic Philology to the Department of Sanskrit and Indian Studies. By the late 1950s, it came to include Indian and Tibetan Buddhism, and by the time of his retirement in 1981, it included positions in Hindu Studies and Indo-Muslim Studies as well.

During the golden period of rapid expansion in Asian studies, some 50 of his students finished with a Ph.D. and began teaching at major universities throughout the world. Through the students he trained, Ingalls had an enormous influence on the development of Sanskrit studies in North America. Among both his students and collaborators were Indian scholars as well. Though a political conservative himself, Ingalls had a lifelong friendship with the Indian Marxist historian D.D. Kosambi, who became the text-editor for the Subhasitaratnakosa. Of Kosambi, Ingalls wrote, “I have never met a man with whom I disagreed on such basic questions, yet whose company I so constantly enjoyed.”

Throughout most of his career at Harvard, Dan Ingalls constituted a one-man department, teaching at all levels from beginning Sanskrit to advanced courses in Indian philosophy and poetry. The Sanskrit Library in Widener became the center of energetic and demanding study for generations of Sanskrit students. He also met students by appointment in his Widener study where he had no telephone, but could be found by those with the temerity to knock on his door. This was open for business and visitors once per week from 8-9 a.m., had no phone but a typewriter built in 1888.

He had the reputation for being a demanding teacher, to be sure. It is said that his description of the department for the undergraduate manual, Fields of Concentration, began, “Sanskrit is a difficult language. Only the rare undergraduate would be advised to take it.” But as one former student remembers, “Studying with Daniel Ingalls was exhausting, demanding, and rewarding.” He taught with patience and authority, bringing out the beauty of the classical Sanskrit texts that he loved and communicating this to his students. Ingalls taught not only Sanskrit but also Harvard’s first General Education course on Indian Civilization.

In 1950, Ingalls published his first book Materials for the Study of Navya-Nyaya Logic (Harvard Oriental Series Volume 40) based on his intended Ph.D. work. It is an introduction of the “new” school of Indian logic, bringing to light its analytic and intellectual achievements. Here Ingalls “sought to demonstrate that Indian philosophy not only can be as careful and precise as Western analytic philosophy but in fact may well have something of vital importance to teach it” (S. Pollock). In the West, this launched an entirely new field of studies.

While Ingalls continued to write on Indian philosophy, his deep interest in poetry came increasingly to the fore. In 1964, he published a 460 page volume An Anthology of Sanskrit Court Poetry. Vidyakara’s Subhasitaratnakosa. (H.O.S. Volume 44), containing some 1,700 Sanskrit verses collected by a Buddhist monk around 1050 C.E. Ingalls’ great intuition for Sanskrit along with his magisterial command of English made this translation among the very best. It is still available in a paperback edition. His introductions, notes, and commentaries make the entire work a masterful and enduring contribution to Sanskrit literary studies. In the introduction, Ingalls sheds light on the development of Indian poetry and compares the impersonality of Sanskrit poetry with the predominantly personal poetry of the West. As the project came to a conclusion, Ingalls said that Vidyakara had furnished him with “the happiest hours of labor that I have yet known.”

In 1981 the Department of Sanskrit and Indian Studies joined the Center for the Study of World Religions in hosting a dinner for Ingalls to celebrate the recent publication of a Festschrift dedicated to him as “one of the great humanistic scholars of our time” and entitled Sanskrit and Indian Studies: Essays in Honour of Daniel H. H. Ingalls. Its preface emphasized his immense breadth of scholarship and the pioneering impact and lasting value of his two books, one for the study of logic and the other for literary studies. A flood of telegrams and letters of appreciation arrived from India, England, Japan, and many parts of the United States.

In 1990, after his retirement, Daniel Ingalls brought to conclusion his third major contribution to the Harvard Oriental Series, a joint undertaking with Jeffrey M. Masson and M.V. Patwardhan, The Dhvanyaloka of Anandavardhana with the Locana of Abhinavagupta, edited with an introduction by Ingalls himself (H.O.S. Volume 49). The book deals with the culmination of Indian poetics by the Kashmiri scholar Abhinavagupta in the 9th century C.E. In this, he makes one of the most influential texts and commentaries of Sanskrit aesthetics and literary theory available in English.

In addition to his three major books, he published some twenty-seven articles on Indological topics. After his retirement, Ingalls worked with his son, computer scientist Daniel H. H. Ingalls Jr., Harvard ‘66, on a computer-assisted analysis of the literary technique of the Mahabharata, and their first findings were published in 1985 in the Journal of South Asian Literature.

During these years, Ingalls was the editor of the Harvard Oriental Series (H.O.S. Volumes 42–48) and brought out the long-neglected German translation of India’s oldest text, the Rgveda, by K.F. Geldner (H.O.S. Volumes 33–36, 1951–57). He also served for forty-three years as a trustee of the Harvard Yenching Institute, which has since established a fellowship in his honor. He was President of the American Oriental Society in 1959-60 and Director of the Association of Asian Studies in 1959.

His entrenched patrician and conservative views, reinforced by his background in the railroad and hotel business, became obvious  in 1969 at the time of the occupation of University Hall. At a  faculty meeting with radicals in the majority, he tried, urged on by conservative colleagues,  to make a motion in support of the administration; it  never occurred to him that this could be voted down.

Dan Ingalls was a cultured, polite, elegant host to friends, neighbors, and students. He was in close contact with colleagues in classical studies. In addition to the Society of Fellows, he was a member of the History of Religions and Philology Clubs that met for dinner and talks at members’ homes. He kept in contact with students and colleagues even after his retirement to Virginia and he would gather some twenty-five students for a Sanskrit reading salon in his apartment on Memorial Drive.

Even while he was a professor at Harvard, Ingalls was a member of the Virginia State Chamber of Commerce. From 1963 onwards, he was chairman of the Virginia Hot Springs Corporation, Inc., an enterprise that included the Homestead resort, where he usually spent his summers. Indeed, as he wrote in 1986, he “led a schizophrenic life,” split between his family’s business interests in Virginia and his scholarly pursuits at Cambridge. After retirement he moved back to his home, called The Yard, in Hot Springs, and took up the full time management of the family business.

Ingalls married Phyllis Sarah Day in 1936, the same year he graduated from Harvard. Over the years, they made their home at 24 Coolidge Hill, Cambridge. They had three children—Sarah Day, Rachel Holmes (Radcliffe ‘64), and Daniel Henry Holmes Jr. (Harvard ’66). Phyllis passed away in 1982, shortly after he had retired.

Daniel Ingalls died of heart failure on July 17, 1999, at the Bath Community County Hospital in Virginia, at the age of 83. He was buried at Warm Springs Cemetery in Warm Springs, Virginia. On Virginia’s State Route 39, he is remembered by a memorial monument at the Dan Ingalls Overlook, affording a beautiful vista of his beloved Bath County.

Surviving are his second wife, Joanne Kreutzer; Sarah Ingalls Daughn of South Dartmouth, Massachusetts; Rachel Holmes Ingalls of London, England; Daniel H. H. Ingalls Jr. of Rio del Mar, California; five grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.

Respectfully submitted,

Diana Eck
Richard Frye
Zeph Stewart †
Wei-ming Tu
Michael Witzel, Chair