Alexander Henry Rhind

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Engraving from photo in Stuart's Memoir by Robert C. Bell

Alexander Henry Rhind (/rnd/; 1833–1863) was a Scottish lawyer and Egyptologist.

Born in Wick on 26 July 1833 in the Highlands, Rhind studied at the University of Edinburgh.[1] Suffering from pulmonary disease, he travelled to Egypt (as was the custom amongst wealthy Europeans at the time) where he became fascinated by the ancient culture and antiquities of that country.

He collected material for his book entitled "Thebes, its Tombs and their Tenants", which was published in 1862. A prolific writer with a methodical research style, all through his years in Egypt he continued to battle ill health.

Among the items that he collected was the Rhind Papyrus, also known as the Ahmes Papyrus after its Egyptian scribe. Rhind acquired it in 1858 and transferred it to the British Museum in 1863, and the similar Egyptian Mathematical Leather Roll. Both are mathematical treatises and both were purchased in the Luxor market, and may have previously been stolen from the Ramesseum. When chemically softened and decoded years afterward, they show the Egyptians had computed the value of π as 3.1605, a margin of error of less than one percent.

He has been described as a "young hero", the only "bright shining light of archaeological method and conscience" in the mid-nineteenth century, who plotted the exact location of artefacts and their relationships, the first to do so.[2]

Rhind died in his sleep on 3 July 1863 in Cadenabbia at the age of 30. Along with his 1600-volume library he left a bequest to the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland to fund a lectureship, and the prestigious Rhind Lectures currently hosted by the Society commemorates his name.[3] Rhind directed that a sum from his estate at Sibster, Caithness, be used for this purpose, once the interests of living parties was extinguished; this eventuated in 1874, 11 years after his death.[1]


The Rhind Papyrus
  • British Archæology, its progress and demands
  • Facsimiles of two papyri found in a tomb at Thebes with a translation by Samuel Birch and an account of their discovery
  • Law of treasure-trove : how can it be best adapted to accomplish useful results?
  • Thebes : its tombs and their tenants, ancient and present


  1. ^ a b  "Rhind, Alexander Henry". Dictionary of National Biography. London: Smith, Elder & Co. 1885–1900. 
  2. ^ "Signs and Wonders Upon Pharaoh: A History of American Egyptology", p50-51, John A. Wilson, University of Chicago Press, 1964
  3. ^ "The Rhind Lectures". Society's Website. Society of Antiquaries of Scotland. Retrieved 27 November 2010.