Childhood & Early Life
William Carey was born on August 17, 1761 in the village of Paulerspury in Northamptonshire, England to Edmund and Elizabeth Carey. His father was a parish clerk and a village schoolmaster as well.
Carey was an inquisitive child and was interested in the natural sciences, especially botany. He was also proficient in many languages and learnt Latin on his own.
His health did not allow him to purse agriculture, which is why at the age of sixteen he became an apprentice to a shoemaker in Hackleton. Later, he became a shoemaker himself.
At his apprenticeship, Carey met a Dissenter, John Warr, and in due course of time, he left the Church of England and joined other Dissenters to form a small Congregational Church near Hackletown.
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Life & Work
After Carey’s mentor, Clarke Nichols, died in 1779, he worked under Thomas Old and soon after his death, he took over his business. By this time, he had taught himself to read Hebrew, Italian, Dutch and French.
He was by now invited to preach in the church near village of Earls Barton on Sundays and soon he was baptized by John Ryland and committed himself to the Baptist denomination.
In 1785, he became the schoolmaster for the Moulton village and was asked to serve as the pastor to the local Baptist church. He was now inspired to proliferate the Christian Gospel, after reading David Brainerd, James Cook, etc.
Carey became the full-time pastor of Harvey Lane Baptist Church, Leicester, in 1789 and a few years later, he wrote his missionary manifesto, ‘An Enquiry into the Obligations of Christians to use Means for the Conversion of the Heathen’.
The short book contained the theological justification for missionary activities, history of missionary activities, religion statistics of every country in the world, possible objections of sending missionaries and their solution, plan for the formation of a missionary society, etc.
Carey, along with his family, sailed from England to India in 1793 in order to spread their Christian mission. He managed the indigo plant of his son’s friend for first six years to support the mission.
More missionaries were sent to India, like, John Fountain, William Ward, Joshua Marshman, etc but because the East India Company was antagonistic to missionaries, they settled in Danish colonies and were joined by Carey in 1800.
They all settled in Serampore in a big house that accommodated their families as well as a school. Carey started printing the Bible in Bengali and started the conversion process of Hindus.
Carey was offered the position of a professor of Bengali at Fort William by Governor-General in 1801. In his influential position, Carey started working towards the abolition of the evil practices of sati and infant sacrifice.
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He started translating literature and sacred writings from the original Sanskrit into English to make them accessible to his own countrymen. During his lifetime, mission printed and distributed Bible in 44 languages and dialects.
The mission established Serampore College in 1818 to train original ministers for the church and to provide education in the arts and sciences to anyone without any bias. A royal charter made the college the first degree-granting organization in Asia.
In 1820, Carey founded the Agri Horticultural Society of India at Alipore, Kolkata, propagating his lifelong passion for botany.
With the new secretary of the missionary society in England, John Dyer, Carey’s differences started growing and eventually he left the mission ground and devoted his life to preaching and teaching students until his death.
Personal Life & Legacy
In 1781, Carey got married to his boss Thomas Old’s sister-in-law, Dorothy Plackett, in Piddington. They together had seven children, five sons and two daughters. Three of his children died during their childhood.
From the time when Carey and his family settled in India, Dorothy started having troubles with adjusting emotionally and mentally and subsequently lost her mental balance and became psychologically affected. She died in 1807.
In 1808 Carey got married to Charlotte Rhumohr, a Danish member of his church who was not illiterate like Dorothy and was quite involved in her husband’s work. They were married for 13 years until her death.
He died in India in 1834 and the couch that he died on is now housed for exhibition at Regent’s Park College, the Baptist hall of the University of Oxford.
Carey has nine colleges named after him: William Carey Christian School (WCCS) in Sydney, NSW, William Carey International University in Pasadena, California, Carey Theological College in Vancouver, British Columbia, Carey Baptist College in Auckland, New Zealand, Carey Baptist Grammar School in Melbourne, Victoria, Carey College in Colombo, Sri Lanka, and William Carey University, Hattiesburg, Mississippi, etc.
Carey is honored with a feast day on the liturgical calendar of the Episcopal Church on 19 October.
His son Peter died of dysentery, the grief of which left his wife Dorothy suffering from a nervous breakdown from which she never recovered.
The first Indian that Carey’s mission converted was a man named Krishna Pal.