John Drew Bate was born in Plymouth in 1836. He trained at Regent’s Park College, London and then in 1865, sailed to India to work for the Baptist Missionary Society, the same year that he married, Beatrice Tagg.
After a period in East Bengal (now Bangladesh) he was posted to Allahabad in 1868 where he stayed until his retirement in 1897. He became a member of the Asiatic Society of Bengal in 1873 and the Royal Asiatic Society in 1881.
He authored the Hindi Dictionary published in 1875 , adding 25,000 new words and forms of words. At his death this work was still considered the standard text and by order of the Education Department of the Government of India, copies were placed in all schools and colleges in India where Hindi was spoken. Bate contributed articles to the Missionary Herald, Baptist Magazine and Asiatic Quarterly Review. He also published An Examination of the Claims of Ishmael as viewed by Muhammadans.
He returned to England on his retirement. He had one son who lived to adulthood but was killed in the WWI and was outlived by his wife and their daughters. He died on 26th January, 1923.