Person NameLewis; Agnes Smith (1843-1926); Papers of Agnes Smith Lewis and Margaret Dunlop Gibson; Biblical scholar and traveller
ForenamesAgnes Smith
EpithetBiblical scholar and traveller

Agnes Smith Lewis was born in 1843, the elder twin daughter of John Smith of Irvine, Ayrshire, Scotland. She was educated at Irvine Academy until the age of 12, then at private schools (Birkenhead and London) till the age of 18, and afterwards by private tuition. From an early age, she and her sister demonstrated an extraordinary talent for languages which, with their strong Presbyterian beliefs, were to characterise the rest of their lives. The twins' father died in 1866, leaving them heirs to a large fortune left by a distant relative in America.


Although Agnes and her twin sister did not work as academics, they were famous for their scholarship and knowledge of languages and Biblical texts.
This wealth financed their studies of languages, in particular the languages of the early texts of the Bible, including Arabic and Syriac, and their travels. They made many journeys to libraries in the Middle East in search of early manuscripts. Their travels focused on the Monastery of St Catherine in Sinai, where, in 1892, they discovered the Codex Sinaiticus, a late fourth-century text of the Gospels in Syriac. Agnes Smith Lewis published many scholarly and popular works relating to this and other discoveries, as well as a number of novels. The sisters endowed Westminster College, Cambridge, a training college for Presbyterian ministers. She married the Rev. Samuel Savage Lewis in 1887 - he died in 1891.


She was awarded honorary degrees from the Universities of Halle, St Andrews, Heidelberg, and Dublin.
RelationshipsTwin sister of Margaret Dunlop Gibson. Married Samuel S Lewis in 1887 - he died in 1891.


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