Hungarian traveler and Orientalist; born at Duna-Szerdahely, on the island of Schütt, near Presburg, March 19, 1832. He was apprenticed at the age of twelve to a ladies' dressmaker; but after becoming tutor to the son of the village innkeeper, he was enabled by his friends to enter the gymnasium of St. George, near Presburg. In 1846 he went to Presburg, where he remained three years. Later he studied at Vienna, Kecskemet, and Budapest.
Vámbéry was especially attracted by the literature and culture of Turkey, and in 1854 he was enabled, through the assistance of Baron Joseph Eötvös, to go to Constantinople. There he became a private tutor, and thus entered the household ofḤusain Da'im Pasha, later becoming private secretary to Fuad Pasha. About this time he was elected a corresponding member of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences in recognition of his translations of Turkish historians. Returning to Budapest in 1861, he received a stipend of a thousand florins from the academy, and in the fall of the same year, disguised as a Sunnite dervish, and under the name of Rashid Effendi, he set out from Constantinople. His route lay from Trebizond to Teheran, via Erzerum, Tabriz, Zenjan, and Kazvin. He then went to Shiraz, through Ispahan, and in June, 1863, he reached Khiva, whence he went by way of Bokhara and Samarcand to Herat, returning through Meshed to Teheran and Trebizond.
This was the first journey of its kind undertaken by a European; and since it was necessary to avoid suspicion, Vámbéry could not take even fragmentary notes, except by stealth. He returned to Europe in 1864, and received in the next year the appointment of professor of Oriental languages in the University of Budapest, retiring therefrom in 1905. Vámbéry became known also as a publicist, zealously defending the English policy in the East as against that of the Russians.
The publications of Vámbéry, aside from magazine articles, are as follows: "Deutsch-Türkisches Taschenwörterbuch" (Constantinople, 1858); "Abuska," a Turkish-Chagatai dictionary (Budapest, 1861); "Reise in Mittelasien" (Leipsic, 1865, 2d ed. 1873); "Cagataische Sprachstudien" (ib. 1867); "Meine Wanderungen und Erlebnisse in Persien" (ib. 1867); "Skizzen aus Mittelasien" (ib. 1868); "Uigurische Sprachmonumente und das Kudatku-Bilik" (Innsbruck, 1870); "Uigurisch-Türkische Wortvergleichungen" (Budapest, 1870); "Geschichte Bocharas" (2 vols., Stuttgart, 1872); "Der Islam im Neunzehnten Jahrhundert" (Leipsic, 1875); "Sittenbilder aus dem Morgenlande" (Berlin, 1876); "Etymologisches Wörterbuch der Turkotatarischen Sprachen" (Leipsic, 1878); "Die Primitive Cultur des Turkotatarischen Volkes" (ib. 1879); "Der Ursprung der Magyaren" (ib. 1882); "Das Türkenvolk" (ib. 1885); "Die Scheïbaniade, ein Oezbegisches Heldengedicht," text and translation (Budapest, 1885); "Story of Hungary" (London, 1887); "A Magyarság Keletkezése és Gyarapodása" (Budapest, 1895); "Travels and Adventures of the Turkish Admiral Sidi Ali Reis in India, Afghanistan, Central Asia, and Persia During the Years 1553-1556," a translation from the Turkish (ib. 1899); and "Alt-Osmanische Sprachstudien" (Leyden, 1901).
On political subjects Vámbéry has written: "Russlands Machtstellung in Asien" (Leipsic, 1871); "Zentralasien und die Englisch-Russische Grenzfrage" (ib. 1873); and "The Coming Struggle for India" (London, 1885). Many of his works have been translated into other languages, especially French. He has written his autobiography under the titles "Arminius Vámbéry, His Life and Adventures" (ib. 1883) and "Struggles of My Life" (ib. 1904).
- Meyers Konversations-Lexikon;
- Brockhaus Konversations-Lexikon.