Josiah Harlan (1799 – 1871), adventurer and medical practitioner who served the British, the Sikhs and the Afghans, was born in Philadelphia, U.S.A., in 1799. At the age of 24, he arrived at Calcutta and was employed as an assistant surgeon by the East India Company and attached to the British army then operating in Burma (1824). After the war, Harlan proceeded towards the Punjab to try his luck there. At Ludhiana, he met Shah Shuja’, the deposed king of Kabul, then a pensionary of the English, who engaged him as his secret agent and despatched him to Kabul to stir up a revolt in Afghanistan. He did not meet with much success in Kabul and came to Lahore to take up service under Maharaja Ranjit Singh on an oath of fealty in the name of Christ. He also promised, in writing, to serve the Maharaja honestly all his life and fight against his enemies. He also volunteered to keep supplying news about the British as well as about the Afghans. Maharaja Ranjit Singh appointed him governor, on a salary ofRs 1,000 per month, of the provinces ofJasrota and Nurpur, two districts then newly annexed to Lahore. In 1832, he became governor of Gujrat.
He published an account of his adventures, A Memoir of India and Afghanistan.