Augustus Frederic Rudolf Hoernlé (often Hoernle) (1841–1918) was a German-British Orientalist.
He was born in Secundra, Agra, British India, the son of a Protestant missionary priest, Christian Theophilus Hoernlé (1804–1882), from a German family who had provided an number of recruits for the Church Missionary Society in the area. Hoernlé was therefore a British subject by birth; he was sent to Germany and his grandparents, at age 7, and was initially educated there.
Hoernlé attended school in Switzerland, later moving to London and studying Sanskrit under Theodor Goldstucker. He returned to India in 1865, teaching first at the Benares Hindu University and later at the University of Calcutta. Eventually, Hoernlé was to lead the Asiatic Society of Bengal and retire to Oxford.
Hoernlé spent nearly his entire working life engaged in the study of Indo-Aryan languages and is perhaps best known for his decipherment of the Bower Manuscript collected by Hamilton Bower in Chinese Turkestan. He was an early scholar of Khotanese.
His work on the languages of Bihar in Comparative Grammar of the Gaudian Languages (1880) was followed up by George Abraham Grierson. Grierson also adopted his two-wave theory of the Indo-Aryan migration.
Hoernlé was fooled by, and published a book on, forgeries obtained by George Macartney and created by Islam Akhun. After a preliminary report in 1897, he published A Collection of Antiquities from Central Asia on these productions The truth about these manuscripts was revealed to him by the explorer Sir Aurel Stein. Hoernlé's reputation survived this revelation, however, and his obituaries tactfully omitted the incident.
The books written by him include: 1. Studies in the medicine of ancient India (1907). Accessible @ http://archive.org/details/studiesinmedicin01hoeruoft 2. Manuscript remains of Buddhist literature found in Eastern Turkestan; facsimiles with transcripts, translation and notes (1916). Accessible @ http://archive.org/details/manuscriptremain00hoeruoft 3. Translation of the Bower Manuscript. Accessible @ http://archive.org/details/TheBowerManuscript
- Sweet, William. "Hoernlé, (Reinhold Friedrich) Alfred (1880–1943)". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/94419. (subscription or UK public library membership required)
- Eugene Stock, The History of the Church Missionary Society: its environment, its men and its work (1899), vol. iii p. 130; archive.org.
- britishmuseum.org, Ursula Sims-Williams, Rudolf Hoernle and Sir Aurel Stein (PDF).
- Hopkirk, Peter (1980). Foreign Devils on the Silk Road: The Search for the Lost Cities and Treasures of Chinese Central Asia. Amherst: The University of Massachusetts Press. ISBN 0-87023-435-8.
- Ray H. Greenblatt. The Vanishing Trove: Reviled Heroes; Revered Thieves. The Chicago Literary Club. October 2, 2000
- Haigh, John D. "Grierson, George Abraham". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/33572. (subscription or UK public library membership required)
- George Erdösy (1995). The Indo-Aryans of Ancient South Asia: Language, Material Culture and Ethnicity. Walter de Gruyter. p. 37. ISBN 978-3-11-014447-5. Retrieved 24 October 2012.
- Susan Whitfield (editor), Dunhuang Manuscript Forgeries (2002), British Library, pp. 5–8.