Sir Richard F. Burton

On this date in 1821, Sir Richard Francis Burton was born in Great Britain. The colorful adventurer and explorer, educated at Oxford, served in the army in India, where he began to study languages and Muslim culture. Burton became fluent in nearly 30 languages. Posing as a pilgrim, he was the first non-Muslim to partake in the rituals of Mecca, writing a book about the experience.

He made famous translations of the Arabian Nights and the Kama Sutra, and traveled extensively in the Mideast, Africa and South America. Biographers, including his niece, Georgiana Stisted (True Life of Sir R.F. Burton), considered Burton a rationalist, at most an agnostic or deist. He was married to a highly superstitious Catholic woman who had last rites administered at Burton’s death. (D. 1890)

Freedom From Religion Foundation