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3 November 1813|
St Mary Woolnoth, London, England, United Kingdom
|Died||27 December 1885 (aged 72)|
Birch was the son of a rector at St Mary Woolnoth, London. He was educated at Merchant Taylors' School. From an early age, his manifest tendency to the study of out-of-the-way subjects well suited his later interest in archaeology. After brief employment in the Record Office, he obtained, in 1836, an appointment to the antiquities department of the British Museum. The appointment was due to his knowledge of Chinese, which was unusual at that time. He soon broadened his research to Egyptian. When the cumbrous department came to be divided, he was appointed to head the Egyptian and Assyrian branch.
In the latter language he had assistance, but for many years there was only one other person in the institution, in a different department, who knew anything of ancient Egyptian. The entire arrangement of the department devolved upon Birch. He found time nevertheless for Egyptological work of the highest value, including a hieroglyphical grammar and dictionary, translations of The Book of the Dead and papyrus Harris I, and numerous catalogues and guides.
He further wrote what was long a standard history of pottery, investigated the Cypriote syllabary, and proved by various publications that he had not lost his old interest in Chinese. Paradoxical in many of his views on things in general, he was sound and cautious as a philologist; while learned and laborious, he possessed much of the instinctive divination of genius.
- Analecta Sinensia, 1841.
- Select Papyri in the Hieratic Character, 3 pts. fol. 1841-4.
- Tablets from the Collection of the Earl of Belmore, 1843.
- Friends till Death (from Chinese), 1845.
- An Introduction to the Study of the Egyptian Hieroglyphics, 1857.
- History of Ancient Pottery, 2 vols. 1858. John Murray, London.
- Memoire sur une Patere, 1858.
- Select Papyri, pt, ii. 18 (50).
- A Description of the Collection of Ancient Marbles in the British Museum Part 11. 1861.
- ChineseWidow (from Chinese), 1862.
- Elfin Foxes (from Chinese), 1863.
- Papyrus of Nas-Khem, 1863.
- Facsimiles of Egyptian Relics, 1863.
- Facsimiles of two Papyri, 1863.
- Inscriptions in the Himyaritic Character, 1863.
- Egypt's Place in Universal History, 1867. (Vol. 5 - contributed the first extensive English translation of the Book of the Dead)
- The Casket of Gems (from Chinese), 1872.
- History of Egypt, 1875.
- Facsimile of Papyrus of Rameses III, fol. 1876.
- The Monumental History of Egypt, 1876.
- Egyptian Texts, 1877.
- Catalogue of Egyptian Antiquities at Alnwick Castle, 1880.
- The Coffin of Amamu (unfinished).
- Lee, Sidney, ed. (1901). "Birch, Samuel (1813-1885)". Dictionary of National Biography, 1901 supplement. London: Smith, Elder & Co.
- Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Birch, Samuel". Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.