LEITNER, GOTTLIEB WILHELM (1840–1899), British educator and Orientalist. Born Gottlieb Saphir (or Sapier) in Budapest, Leitner took the name of his stepfather, a conversionist minister to the Jews of the Ottoman Empire. In the late 1850s he moved to England, becoming professor of Arabic and Mohammedan Law at King's College, London. From 1864 to 1879 he lived in India, where he was principal of Government College, Lahore, and spent several years as a notable explorer of a remote region in Kashmir and Afghanistan he termed "Dardistan." Leitner was also a renowned and remarkable linguist, reputedly knowing 50 languages at his death. He returned to England in 1879, where he opened the Oriental Institute at Woking, south of London, meant for Indian students and also as a research center for Indian studies. There he opened England's first mosque, and was regarded as a positive exponent of Islam in the West. Through his fame as a linguist, Leitner had been asked to give Queen Victoria a suitable Hindustani title when she was made Empress of India in 1876. He chose the title Kaisar-i-Hind, by which she was officially known in India. Leitner's career as an explorer of Central Asia and a linguist was remarkably like that of other British Jews of the same time, among them Ney *Elias and Sir Auriol *Stein. Leitner was the uncle of the Conservative politician and Zionist Leopold *Amery.
Sources: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.