Richard Francis Burton

Sir Richard Francis Burton (1821–90) was a gifted linguist, a daring explorer, a prolific author, and one of the most flamboyant celebrities of his day. Forced to leave Oxford for unruly behavior, he joined the British Army in India, where he gained a remarkable knowledge of Arabic, Hindustani, and Persian, eventually acquiring 29 languages and many dialects. He led the famed expedition to discover the source of the Nile and, disguised as a Muslim, made a pilgrimage to the city of Mecca, then forbidden to non-Muslims, and penetrated the sacred city of Harare in uncharted East Africa. Burton translated unexpurgated versions of many famous texts, including The Kama Sutra of Vatsayayana (1883), and The Arabian Nights (1885–88), which is perhaps his most celebrated achievement.