Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography, edited by James
Grant Wilson, John Fiske and Stanley L. Klos. Six volumes, New York: D. Appleton
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CURTIN, Jeremiah, linguist, born in Milwaukee, Wis., about 1835. He had little education in childhood, but at the age of twenty or twenty-one prepared himself to enter Phillips Exeter academy, made extraordinary progress, and soon entered Harvard College, where he was graduated in 1863. By this time he had become noted among his classmates and acquaintances for his wonderful facility as a linguist. On leaving College he had acquired a good knowledge of French, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, Rumanian, Dutch, Danish, Swedish, Icelandic, Gothic, German. and Finnish, besides Greek and Latin. He had also made considerable progress in Hebrew, Persian, and Sanskrit, and was beginning to speak Russian. When Admiral Lissofsky's fleet visited this country in 1864, Curtin became acquainted with the officers and accompanied the expedition on its return to Russia. In St. Petersburg he obtained employment as a translator of polyglot telegraphic dispatches, but Mr. Seward presently appointed him to the office of secretary of the U. S. legation, and he held this place till 1868. During this period he became familiar with the Polish, Bohemian, Lithuanian, Lettish, and Hungarian languages, and made a beginning in Turkish. From 1868 till 1877 he traveled in Eastern Europe and in Asia, apparently in the service of the Russian government, in 1873, at the celebration at Prague of the 500th anniversary of the birth of John Huss, he delivered the oration, speaking with great eloquence in the Bohemian language. During his travels in the Danube country he learned to speak Slovenian, Croatian, Servian, and Bulgarian. He lived for some time in the Caucasus, where he learned Mingrelian, Abkasian, and Armenian. At the beginning of the Russo-Turkish war in 1877, he left the Russian dominions, and, after a year in London, returned to his native country. Since then he has been studying the languages of the American Indians, and has made valuable researches under the auspices of Major John W. Powell and the bureau of ethnology. He is said to be acquainted with more than fifty languages.
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