William Turner (1792-1867) was a British diplomat and writer. He was appointed at the Foreign Office at a young age thanks to his father's acquaintances. In 1811 he joined the British embassy in Istanbul under newly-appointed ambassador R. Liston.
Turner sailed out from England and by way of Cádiz, Palermo, Malta and Milos reached Istanbul in the middle of a plague epidemic. In 1813 Turner travelled to Epirus on a mission (he was bringing documents to the British consul) and visited Ali Pasha's territory. He later toured the Peloponnese and Attica (1814) and returned to Istanbul by way of the Aegean islands (Tinos, Chios, Lemnos). In 1815 Turner embarked on a new tour of the East (Palestine, Egypt, Cyprus and the Dodecanese).
He returned to Britan in 1816 and composed a three-volume account of his travel impressions, in diary form. In 1824 Turner was again in Istanbul as secretary to the British embassy. Later on, in 1829, he was appointed Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary to the Republic of Colombia, where he stayed for nine years.
During his stay in the East, Turner acquired a large collection of coins. The collection remained in the hands of his descendants until 1987. The British diplomat did not limit himself to describing cities and monuments, but was also interested in social behaviours, customs, mores and trditions of various ethnicities, as well as economic and demographic data. He also composed a study on popular idioms of modern Greek, tracing their origin to the times of Homer.
Written by Ioli Vingopoulou