The Scottish Shanghailander Alexander Wylie

27 October 2015

Alexander-Wylie-300wThe Scottish Shanghailander Alexander Wylie (1815-1887): 

Missionary, Man of Letters, Mathematician

Friday 6 November 2015, 4.00 - 6.00 pm, The Royal Society of Edinburgh

22-26 George Street, Edinburgh, EH2 2PQ 

Alexander Wylie led an extraordinary and inspiring life. Born in London in 1815, he was educated in Scotland in Kincardineshire. He showed a natural aptitude for languages, and began teaching himself Chinese by use of a grammar written in Latin during his time as an apprentice cabinet-maker.  His combination of linguistic and technical skills led to his being sent to China in 1847 by the London Missionary Society to oversee the work of its printing press in Shanghai. These interests also resulted in his translating a series of western books on science and mathematics into Mandarin, as well as producing translations of the Gospels of Matthew and Mark.  He also collected materials on the history of Christian missions in China, which he published in his bookMemorials of Protestant Missionariesin 1867. His articles introduced western readers to the achievements of Chinese science, and to important discoveries, such as the Nestorian inscription found in Xi'an. Working for the British and Foreign Bible Society, he undertook a series of voyages into the interior of China, including one down the Yangtse to Chengdu and the Han River Valley in 1868.  Failing eyesight led him to return to Britain in 1877, where he negotiated the sale of the library of 20,000 books he had collected during his time in China to the University of Oxford, where it remains one of the most important holdings in the Bodleian Library.