Peter Scharf earned his B.A. in philosophy at Wesleyan University and his doctorate in Sanskrit at the University of Pennsylvania, after which he taught Sanskrit at Brown University for 19 years and conducted research on the linguistic and philosophical traditions of India. Since 2011, he has held several visiting professorships: Visiting Professor at the Maharishi International University Research Institute, International Blaise Pascal Research Chair at the University of Paris Diderot, Visiting Professor in the Department of Sanskrit Studies at the University of Hyderabad, Visiting Professor of Sanskrit in the Department of Humanities and Social Sciences at the Indian Institute of Technology Bombay, and Visiting Professor in the Language Technologies Research Center at the International Institute of Information Technology in Hyderabad. He is currently a Fellow at the Indian Institute of Advanced Study in Shimla, and the director of the Sanskrit Library (sanskritlibrary.org), an international digital Sanskrit library which he founded in 2002.
His work over the past fifteen years developing innovative research and instructional technology for Sanskrit has proven to be eminently successful. He has obtained more than a million dollars in grants to integrate manuscripts, texts, lexical resources, and linguistic software. In projects that produce a new paradigm of access to primary cultural materials of India, he catalogued and digitized Sanskrit manuscripts at Brown University, the University of Pennsylvania, and Harvard University, aligned manuscripts with corresponding digital text allowing focused access to sought passages in the manuscript images, and developed image-text alignment software to automate the process. He digitized some forty-five Sanskrit lexical sources and integrated them to allow simultaneous lookup. These lexical sources include not only the major bilingual dictionaries, but also indigenous thesauri, lists, specialized dictionaries, and monolingual Sanskrit dictionaries usually neglected by the scholarly community. In view of the success of these projects, he was awarded a prestigious International Blaise Pascal Research Chair in Paris for a year where he brought Indian theories of semantics and syntax face to face with modern computational linguistics and directed a project to build a tagged corpus of Sanskrit texts. The year culminated in an edited volume of papers on Sanskrit syntax published in 2015.
He is now developing a computational implementation of Pāṇinian grammar based on an XML formalization of the entire Aṣṭādhyāyī he completed in 2016, and is investigating the use of Pāṇinian models of verbal cognition in computational syntax. His project this year at the Indian Institute of Advanced Studies is to translate and elucidate the early 17th century cognitive linguist Kauṇḍabhaṭṭa’s treatises on the conclusions of the Pāṇinian tradition.