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The position of Boden Professor of Sanskrit at the University of Oxford was established in 1832 with money bequeathed to the university by Lieutenant Colonel Joseph Boden, a retired soldier in the service of the East India Company. He wished the university to establish a Sanskrit professorship to assist in the conversion of the people of British India to Christianity, and his bequest was also used to fund scholarships in Sanskrit at Oxford. The first two professors were elected by Oxford graduates, as the university's statutes provided: Horace Hayman Wilson won by a narrow majority in 1832, and the 1860 election was hotly contested, as the rivals each claimed to be best at fulfilling Boden's intentions and presented different views about the nature and purpose of Sanskrit scholarship. Reforms of Oxford implemented in 1882 removed all mention of Boden's original purpose from the statutes, removed the power to elect the professor from graduates, and gave the holder of the professorship a fellowship at Balliol College, Oxford.
Four of the first five professors were born in British India or had worked there. To date, Sir Monier Monier-Williams (professor 1860–99) has held the chair the longest, although a deputy was appointed to carry out his teaching duties for the last 11 years of his life. The current holder (as of 2015[update]), Christopher Minkowski, was appointed in 2005 and is the eighth Boden professor. His predecessor, Richard Gombrich, has said that he had to fight to ensure that he was replaced on retirement; his view was that Oxford retained the chair in Sanskrit because it was the last such position in the United Kingdom.