Joseph Von Hammer-Purgstall, a German orientalist, born in Gratz, Styria, June 9, 1774, died in Vienna, Nov. 24,1856. He studied the Arabic, Persian, and Turkish languages at the oriental academy of Vienna, and, after passing three years in Dalmatia and in travel, went in 1799 to Constantinople as interpreter to the internuncio. In the following year he was commissioned to prepare a report upon the condition of Syria and Egypt, and to inspect the consulates in the Levant. In 1801 he engaged in the Egyptian campaign as secretary-interpreter of the Anglo-Turkish generals, taking part in the conference at Jaffa, and in the surrender of Alexandria. He subsequently visited England. In 1802 he was again sent to Constantinople as secretary of legation, and in 1806 was appointed diplomatic agent at Jassy in Moldavia. He returned to Vienna in 1807, which he never again left except for short journeys. In 1815 he was sent to Paris to receive back the oriental manuscripts which had been carried thither after the occupation of Vienna in 1809, and on his return was offered the place of custodian of this collection, which he declined. In 1816 he was appointed interpreter to the court, and in 1817 aulic councillor.
Inheriting the estate of the counts of Purgstall in 1837, he added that name to his own, and was created a baron. In 1847 he was elected president of the academy of Vienna, but resigned this office in 1849. His large fortune enabled him to devote himself to study. He spoke and wrote ten languages, and though his philological learning was extensive rather than profound, his works are among the most valuable authorities upon oriental history and literature. His care in the references to his authorities renders it easy to correct the errors into which he has fallen. His writings in several languages, including his contributions to the journals of various literary and scientific bodies, would make more than 100 octavo volumes. Among his chief works are: Geschichte der schonen Redekunste Persiens (Tubingen, 1818); Gesehichte des osmanischen Reichs (10 vols., Pesth, 1827-'34); Gesehichte der osmanischen Dichtkunst (4 vols., 1836-'8); Gesehichte der Goldenen Horde im Kiptschak (1840); and Literaturgeschichte der Araber (7 vols. 4to, Vienna, 1850-'57). A posthumous autobiography, Denkwardigkeiten aus meinem Leben, and others of his posthumous writings, were published in 1858.