Friedrich Max Müller

Professor of Comparative Philology, Oxford

Natural Religion

In the first Gifford Lectures at the University of Glasgow, Müller’s primary aim is to define religion and examine the available materials that deal with the origin, development, and decline of religious ideas. He discusses the three ‘branches’ of natural religion: physical, anthropological, and psychological. He believes that the comparative study of religions is a great remedy for intolerance: ‘there is a unity which ought to comprehend them all—the unity of toleration, the unity of love’.


Friedrich Max Müller was born on 6 December 1823 in Dessau, Germany. He was a pioneer in the fields of Vedic studies, comparative philology, comparative mythology, and comparative religion, which he was chiefly responsible for introducing and popularizing in Britain. After spending time in Berlin, Paris, and London working on the Rig Veda, he was appointed Professor of Modern European Languages at Oxford in 1851. The university created a new Chair of Comparative Philology, and Müller became its first occupant in 1868. 

A leading figure of public life in Victorian England, Müller delivered a series of very popular lectures at the Royal Institution on the science of language in 1861 and 1863. Müller’s scholarly works include A History of Ancient Sanskrit Literature So Far As It Illustrates the Primitive Religion of the Brahmans (1859), Lectures on the Science of Language (1864), Introduction to the Science of Religion (1873), and The Science of Thought (1887). Also of note are his two volumes of biographical reflections, entitled Auld Lang Syne (1898) and My Autobiography: A Fragment (1901).