THE first professor of Russian and Slavonic languages at Oxford University is to be honoured with a blue plaque.

Prof William Morfill lived at 42 Park Town, Oxford, and the plaque will be unveiled in a ceremony at the house on Sunday.

Eda Forbes, secretary of the county’s Blue Plaques Board, said the organisation did not often choose academics for the honour, because so many in the city had achieved notable successes.

But Prof Morfill was chosen because he worked all his life to establish Russian studies in Oxford and Britain before his death, aged 75, in 1909.

Mrs Forbes said: “Prof Morfill was the first Russian professor in the whole of Britain and his house in Park Town, where he lived from 1863 to 1899, was like a cultural embassy. There are so many academics who could be honoured with a blue plaque, so those who are selected must have achieved something special.

“We felt that Prof Morfill was a great pioneer, who persevered all his life to establish the teaching of Russian and Slavonic languages at Oxford.

“He taught himself the variations of Slavonic languages by travelling extensively in Eastern Europe and people used to come to his house to learn the languages – he was a very genial man.

“Sir James Murray, the man who helped to create the Oxford English Dictionary, was a very good friend of Prof Morfill.”

Ms Forbes said that after the university “finally realised” that Russian and Slavonic studies was a major field in 1889, it appointed Prof Morfill Reader in the Russian and Slavonic languages, then made him a professor the following year.

Following his death, Sir James Murray told The Times that Prof Morfill was a “unique scholar, whose knowledge of the Slavonic languages was greater than that of any Englishman”.

Jenny Griffiths, manager of the Taylor Bodleian Slavonic and Modern Greek Library, said the library displayed a number of portraits of the professor.

She added: “Professor Morfill was quite a pioneer and we have his archive on loan here from one of the Oxford colleges.

“He started the ball rolling and the study of Russian and Slavonic languages is still going strong in Oxford today.”