John Esslemont

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John Esslemont
John Esslemont.jpg
Born May 19, 1874
Aberdeen, United Kingdom
Died November 22, 1925
Title(s) Hand of the Cause, posthumously
Disciple of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá
Appointed by Shoghi Effendi
Known for Bahá’u’lláh and the New Era

Dr. John Ebenezer Esslemont (May 19, 1874 - November 22, 1925), was a prominent British Bahá’í from Scotland. He was the author of the well-known introductory book on the Bahá’í Faith, Bahá’u’lláh and the New Era, which is still in circulation. He was named posthumously by Shoghi Effendi as the first of the Hand of the Cause he appointed,[1] and as one of the Disciples of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá. He was also an accomplished medical Doctor and linguist becoming proficient in western and eastern languages.


John Esslemont was born in Aberdeen on 19 May 1874, the third son and fourth child of John E. Esslemont (1859-1927), a successful merchant, and Margaret Esslemont (née Davidson).[2] He came from an eminent family and was educated at Ferryhill School, Robert Gordon's College, and the University of Aberdeen.[2] John E. Esslemont is related to 19th Century Liberal Member of Parliament Peter Esslemont - John's Great-Grandfather[3] is Peter's Grandfather.[4] He graduated in medicine in 1898 with honorable distinction. Unfortunately, Esslemont had contracted tuberculosis during his college days and this caused him to give up his promising career in medical research. He traveled internationally and married Jean Fraser to whom he was drawn by their mutual interest in music. On return to Scotland Esslemont took the position of medical superintendent[1] of Home Sanitorium for tuberculosis in Bournemouth.[2] Esslemont became a Baha'i in early 1915 after hearing of it in December 1914 from a co-worker's wife.[2] News of Esslemont's declaration of faith, and his forthcoming book, played a role in establishing the beginning of the Australian Baha'i community.[5]

Esslemont was proficient in French, German, and Spanish, and was an Esperantist[2][6] and later learned Persian and Arabic well enough to assist in translation.[2] In 1916 he began work on a book which became Bahá’u’lláh and the New Era which became perhaps the foremost introductory volume on the Baha'i faith which eventually was published, and revised and reprinted and translated into dozens of languages.[2][7] The Head of the religion of this period, `Abdu'l-Bahá, reviewed parts of it and specifically encouraged Esslemont.[2] Following the passing of `Abdu'l-Bahá, the new Head of the religion, Shoghi Effendi, vacationed in Esslemont's familiar area of Bournemouth, and later Esslemont took permanent residence in Palestine to assist Effendi who then also helped further refine Esslemont's book.[2]

Esslemont is buried in the Bahá’í Cemetery in Haifa along with several other well known Baha'is.[8][9]

There is a Bahá’í school named after Esslemont, The John Esslemont School, in the Grampian region of North East Scotland since 1987.[10] There is also a John Esslemont Memorial Lecture held annually in June in Aberdeen, where speakers from medical backgrounds present research to fellow peers.[11] There is also a John Esslemont walking path in the Black Forest community Finsterlingen, South Germany, overlooking Switzerland. Esslemont was invited here by German friends for recreation on his way towards Haifa in 1925. [12]


Esselmont's Bahá’u’lláh and the New Era was originally published in 1923 and has been translated into numerous languages and remains a key introduction to the Bahá’í religion. The first American edition is available as an e-book.[13] More than sixty years later, it remains in the top ten of cited Baha'i books.[14]
  • Esslemont performed the first review of the worldwide progress of the Bahá’í religion in 1919. While unpublished it was identified and reviewed by recent scholars and was intended to be a chapter in Bahá’u’lláh and the New Era.[15]


  • Harper, Barron (1997). Lights of Fortitude (Paperback ed.). Oxford, UK: George Ronald. ISBN 0-85398-413-1. 


  1. 1.0 1.1 Early British Bahá’í History (1898-1930)
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 2.6 2.7 2.8 Esslemont, John (1874-1925) by Moojan Momen, London: Bahá’í Publishing Trust, 1975. Baha'i World 1:133-6.
  3. John Esslemont's Pedigree
  4. Peter Esslemont's Pedigree
  5. William Miller (b. Glasgow 1875) and Annie Miller (b. Aberdeen 1877) - The First Believers in Western Australia The Scottish Bahá’í No.33 – Autumn, 2003
  6. Making World Peace Real: The Principle of an Universal Auxiliary Language by Paul J Desailly, p.18
  7. "Bahá’u’lláh and the New Era" editions and printings held in Bahá’í World Centre Library Decade by decade 1920 - 2000+
  8. Other Sites in Haifa
  9. U.K. Bahá’í Heritage - Picture Display Seven
  10. The John Esslemont School Transforms Itself Journal of the Bahá’í Community of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, Volume 19, No.7 – January, 2003
  11. John Esslemont Memorial Lecture The Scottish Bahá’í, No.39 – Spring, 2005
  12. [private research Stephan Pernau
  13. [1]Esslemont, J. E. (John Ebenezer), Baha'u'llah and the New Era, New York, Baha'i Publishing Trust (1923?)
  14. Bahá’í scholarship: an examination using citation analysis by Seena Fazel and John Danes, Table 4: Most cited Bahá’í books, 1988-1993.
  15. Esslemont's Survey of the Baha'i World 1919-1920 by Moojan Moomen p.63, Bahá’ís in the West Ed. by Peter Smith, published by Kalimat Press, 2004, ISBN 1890688118

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