CTIS Seminar: Knowledge Transfer and Technical Translation in Mid-19th Century China: The Work of Scottish Missionary-Scholar Alexander Wylie (1815-1887)
|Dates:||21 November 2019|
|Times:||14:00 - 15:30|
|What is it:||Seminar|
|Organiser:||School of Arts, Languages and Cultures|
|Who is it for:||University staff, Adults, Alumni, Current University students, General public|
Alexander Wylie was one of the leading members of a unique concentration of Missionary-Scholars and who lived and worked in Shanghai in the second half of the 19th Century. He was one of the founders of the North China Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society (NCBRAS), later a Vice President and finally an Honorary Member. An avid bibliophile and bibliographer Wylie’s donations of books to the NCBRAS was the basis for one of the finest libraries in Asia. In addition Wylie also provided a large number of books that doubled the Bodleian Library’s China Collection at Oxford.
Originally hired in 1847 as a Superintendent of Printing for the London Missionary Society Press in Shanghai, Wylie developed into a major Missionary-scholar and one of the founding fathers of British sinology. He is still extensively cited today especially his major annotated bibliographic works on the history of Protestant Missionaries in China and on Chinese Literature. He is also extensively cited in western specialists in the history of Chinese science. His seminal work in English Jottings on Chinese Arithmetic with translation of hitherto unknown Chinese sources showed that the conventional wisdom, that China had no extensive significant achievement in mathematics until after the Jesuits, was wrong and that pre-modern Chinese mathematics was on a par and even developed certain mathematical techniques which preceded Europe by hundreds of years. He also produced the first English translation of a Manchu grammar, a language into which all the Chinese classics were translated and used by the Jesuits and even scholars today as an intermediate language These works qualify him as a Sinologist who made a major contribution to knowledge transfer from China to the West.
Wylie was also a major contribution to knowledge transfer TO China from the West. He (co)translated the first textbooks on symbolic algebra and calculus into Chinese as well as the first textbook on modern astronomy. He was also the first translator of the last nine volumes of Euclid’s Elements that had been left left untranslated by the Jesuits. He was also the first to translate parts of Newton's Principia Mathematica into Chinese.
Despite his considerable achievements there are no western academic studies of this remarkable Scot in English. There is, however, a significant and growing literature in Chinese where he is rightly regarded for his translation work as one of the fathers of modern Chinese mathematics and the history of indigenous Chinese mathematics.
Organisation: University of Edinburgh
Biography: Professor Ian Gow, OBE MA PhD DUniv FRAS, is a Professor Emeritus in East Asian Studies and an Honorary Professor at the University of Edinburgh. He was Director of the Confucius Institute at the University of Glasgow 2014-15.He is the former Executive President (2009-2014) of the Sino-British University College in Shanghai. He was the Founding Provost (2003-2007) of China’s independent foreign university campus, the University of Nottingham, Ningbo. Professor Gow trained as a Japan specialist and was Scotland’s first professor of Japanese Studies (Stirling 1987). He was awarded the OBE for his services to UK Higher Education in China and also holds awards from Ningbo City, Zhejiang Provincial Government and the Shanghai Municipal for his contributions in education. He is now working on a book-length study of Alexander Wylie.
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