Sir James Mackintosh was born on 24 October, 1765, in the Scottish Highlands and came from a humble background. From a young age, he showed an aptitude to achieve high goals and his extraordinary proficiency in studies earned him the name ‘prodigy of learning’. His multifaceted personality embraced many interests and professions. His brilliant intellect, literary vision and sharp wit gained him access to the most exclusive intellectual and political circles in London. On being knighted, he was appointed Recorder in Bombay.
Once in India, he set about contributing towards the achievement and advancement of knowledge. Soon, Mackintosh gathered a few like-minded people, and after considerable deliberations formed the Literary Society of Bombay on 26 November 1804, of which he was elected President. This became a platform for all scholarly activities in the years that followed. It was at his instance that several works of literary value by different scholars were researched, published and read. He took steps for purchase of a large collection of books to set up a library. He was a man ahead of his time. Although ill health and lack of intellectual stimulation forced him to return ‘home’, he had already sown the seeds of intellectualism in Bombay.