Alexander Csoma de Körös is perhaps one of the strangest characters of Hungarian scholarship. Driven by Romantic national pride, he set off for Asia in the early 19th century to find the ancestors of the Magyars, or any traces they may have left behind. At that time it was thought that the Magyars had come to the Carpathian Basin from Asia. Csoma had prepared for this journey from early boyhood. Back in his native town of Nagyenyed in Transylvania, he had studied Classics and learned several modern languages so that he could research the historical sources on the origins of that people, later going on to the University of Göttingen to study with the great Orientalists of his day and learning Turkish, Arabic and Persian. He was fluent in thirteen living and dead languages by the time he set out in autumn 1819, and had added a further seven by the time he died.
Apart from the Mediterranean sea crossings, Csoma made the entire trek from Transylvania, via Bucharest, Sofia, Philippopolis (Plovdiv), Ainos, Alexandria, Cyprus, Aleppo, Baghdad, Tehran, Bukhara, Kabul and Leh on foot, arriving years later in India where he was introduced to Buddhism. Settling in a Tibetan monastery at Kanam, close to the Tibetan border, in the foothills of the Himalayas,
between 1827 and 1830 he read through, abstracted and annotated for the Western world the 105,000 pages of the 325 volumes of the Tibetan-language Buddhist 'Bible', created a Tibetan-English dictionary and a Tibetan grammar (published at Calcutta in 1834). Csoma was thus a pioneer in revealing Buddhism and Tibetan culture to the West, and the founder of the discipline of Tibetology.
Having completed those researches, instead of travelling into Cenral Asia, for unknown reasons he remained in Calcutta to study Sanskrit, Bengali, Hindi and Maharatta literature, taking up a post as librarian at the headquarters of the Asiatic Society of Bengal. He was hardly ever seen outside the library building. As a renowned scholar, he would often receive visitors. The once reticent, soft-spoken man was cheerful and talkative with his guests. However, he would never talk about himself, only his readings. Then, all of a sudden, after eight years of library work, he embarked on a new journey. He set off towards Lhasa, the capital of Tibet. He did not get far: in 1842, at the age of fifty-eight, he died in the Himalayas near the today's border between India and China.