Richard Francis Burton was born on March 19, 1821! He was a world famous scholar-explorer, Orientalist and writer. Burton published 43 volumes on his explorations and almost 30 volumes of translations, including his unexpurgated translation of The Arabian Nights.

We’ve prepared a list of the most interesting facts from the biography of this outstanding man. You can find Burton’s full biographical profile on

#1: Richard Francis Burton had an astonishing talent for languages. Before matriculating at Trinity College, Oxford, in 1840, he had become fluent in French, Italian, and the Béarnais and Neapolitan dialects, as well as in Greek and Latin.

#2: Burton joined the East India Company to fight in the first Afghan war, but was commissioned to the regiment of General Charles James Napier in Gujarat. In India, he performed many undercover operations for the Company. When an undercover investigation of a homosexual brothel went horribly wrong, he came back to Europe on a sick leave.

#3: Burton received a thrill from going on expeditions to religiously forbidden places. He went for Hajj to Mecca (a zealously guarded Islamic city which non-Muslims are prohibited from entering) and Medina in 1853. He accomplished this journey by disguising himself as a Muslim merchant and even underwent circumcision. His next expedition of great risk and danger was to Harar, the forbidden East African City. According to a prophecy, the city would fall if a Christian entered its domains, but Burton did it in 1854 and became the first European to do so.

#4: Richard Francis Burton got engaged to Isabel Arundell amid protests from Isabel’s family. Isabel’s family was against the marriage as he neither was a Catholic nor rich. But with time the protests declined and the couple got married in 1861.

#5: Burton’s personality and his writing were shaped in significant ways by the multiple, varied experiences he lived within and outside Britain and Europe from an early age; his publications range from travel accounts to translations and edited works.

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