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The Penultimate CuriosityHow Science Swims in the Slipstream of Ultimate Questions$
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Roger Wagner and Andrew Briggs

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780198747956

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: March 2016

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198747956.001.0001

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The Intellectual Picklock

The Intellectual Picklock

(p.335) Chapter Forty The Intellectual Picklock
The Penultimate Curiosity

Roger Wagner

Andrew Briggs

Oxford University Press

This chapter focusses on George Smith, ‘deluge Smith’ the ‘intellectual picklock’, a nationally known figure whose discoveries were eagerly followed in the pages of the Daily Telegraph. Smith had a childhood fascination with accounts of the exploits of Rawlinson and Layard, and had taught himself to read cuneiform. Starting his working life as an apprentice bank note engraver, he would spend all his lunch hours at the British Museum and all his spare earnings on books about Assyria. He was appointed assistant in the Assyriology Department in 1867. Smith died at the age of 36 in the British consulate in Aleppo after contracting a plague while on expedition in Nineveh.

Keywords:   George Smith, translation, Assyria, cuneiform, British Museum

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