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Heco, Joseph (1837–1897), government interpreter, merchant, and publisher, was born Hamada Hikozō in the village of Komiya, near Kobe, Japan, on the eastern shore of the Inland Sea, the second son of a well-to-do farmer. After his father’s death his mother remarried, to a sea captain who adopted him. While on what should have been a brief internal voyage in late 1850, his ship was blown into the Pacific. He and sixteen other persons, after drifting for fifty-two days, were picked up by a U.S. ship that landed at San Francisco in February 1851. The American authorities, planning for Commodore ...

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Lattimore, Owen (29 July 1900–31 May 1989), columnist and Asia expert, was born in Washington, D.C., the son of David Lattimore, a professor of modern languages, and Margaret Barnes. In 1901 the family moved to Shanghai, where Lattimore’s father taught in Chinese government schools. In 1912 Lattimore’s mother took the children to study in Switzerland. When World War I broke out, Lattimore went to school in England for five years but failed to win a scholarship to Oxford....

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Le Gallienne, Eva (11 January 1899–03 June 1991), actor, director, and translator, was born in London, England, the daughter of Julie Norregaard, a Danish journalist, and Richard Le Gallienne, an English poet. Her parents separated when she was four, and Eva was raised by her mother and schooled in Paris and London. Her feminist mother, who had been influenced by literary critic Georg Brandes and playwright Henrik Ibsen, gave her daughter an aesthetic education and taught her independence. By the time she was seven, Eva knew Paris, London, and Copenhagen and read and spoke French, English, and Danish. After seeing Sarah Bernhardt perform and then meeting her, Eva decided to dedicate her life to the theater....

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Lin Yutang (10 October 1895–26 March 1976), novelist, linguist, and philosopher, was born Lin Ho-lok in Amoy, Fukien Province, China, the son of Lin Chi-shing, a Presbyterian minister, and Young Shun-min. At age seventeen, he changed his given name, meaning peaceful and happy, to Yutang, meaning elegant language, and came to be known as Lin Yutang. Lin attended English-language schools and graduated from St. John’s University, a private western-oriented institution in Shanghai, in 1916. In the same year he became a teacher at Tsing Hua College in Peking. In January 1919 he married Liu Tsui-fung, a wealthy classmate of his sister; eventually the union produced three children. In the fall of 1919 he embarked with his wife to study comparative literature at Harvard....

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Marsh, George Perkins (15 March 1801–23 July 1882), scholar, politician, and diplomat, was born in Woodstock, Vermont, the son of Charles Marsh, a prominent lawyer, and Susan Perkins. The Marshes were among New England’s aristocracy of Puritan intellectuals. Woodstock, unlike western Vermont of the free-spirited Green Mountain Boys, was a town of law-abiding, substantial settlers, conservative in religion and politics. George, in a milieu of book lovers, became an avid reader, although a lifelong eye ailment periodically forced him to turn from the printed page to the outdoor world. As a child, with his father or friends, he observed firsthand the effects of deforestation in early Vermont settlements, the decline of fish in the rivers, and the destruction of precious topsoil....

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Elaine Oswald and Robert L. Gale

Moore, Marianne (15 November 1887–05 February 1972), poet, critic, and translator, was born Marianne Craig Moore in Kirkland, Missouri, the daughter of John Milton Moore, a construction engineer and inventor, and Mary Warner. Moore had an older brother, John Warner Moore. She never met her father; before her birth his invention of a smokeless furnace failed, and he had a nervous and mental breakdown and was hospitalized in Massachusetts. Moore’s mother became a housekeeper for John Riddle Warner, her father, an affectionate, well-read Presbyterian pastor in Kirkwood, until his death in 1894. Moore’s mother, always overly protective, moved with her children briefly to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and then to Carlisle, Pennsylvania, where Moore attended the Metzger Institute (now part of Dickinson College) through high school. In 1905 she entered Bryn Mawr College, in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania; published nine poems, including “A Jelly-Fish,” in its literary magazines ...

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Pike, Albert (29 December 1809–02 April 1891), lawyer, soldier, and Masonic scholar, was born in Boston, Massachusetts, the son of Benjamin Pike, a cobbler, and Sarah Andrews. The boy was torn between his father, whose irreverence and drinking scandalized neighbors, and his mother, who read the Bible to her only son daily and planned on his entering the ministry. In 1813, seeking to supplement his income by farming, Benjamin Pike moved the family to Newburyport, Massachusetts. In 1825 Albert was sent to live with his uncle, a teacher at Framingham Academy, who soon learned that Pike had a prodigious memory that enabled him to digest large volumes and recall their contents at will; the boy learned Hebrew, Latin, and Greek almost effortlessly. Eight months after his arrival in Framingham, Pike passed the entrance examination for Harvard College. He could not afford the tuition, however, so, instead of enrolling at Harvard, he taught common school at Gloucester. The following year Harvard agreed to admit him as a junior, but school officials insisted that he pay the first two years’ tuition. Outraged, Pike abandoned his dreams of a formal education....

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Rockhill, William Woodville (01 April 1854–08 December 1914), Orientalist and diplomat, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the son of Thomas Cadwallader Rockhill, a lawyer, and Dorothy Anna Woodville. The death of his father when William was ten months old, the consequent decision of his energetic mother to move to France, and the near poverty in which he and his brother were raised shaped Rockhill’s childhood, remarkable education, cosmopolitan outlook, and personality. While a cadet at the rigorous École Spéciale Militaire de St. Cyr, Rockhill began his lifetime fascination with the Orient and his serious study of its civilizations and languages, especially Chinese, Sanskrit, and Tibetan. After Rockhill graduated with honors from St. Cyr in 1873, this self-driven, stoical perfectionist served three years as sublieutenant in the French Foreign Legion in Algeria. In 1876 he resigned his commission, returned as a virtual stranger to the United States, and married Caroline Adams Tyson, with whom he had two children....

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Sequoyah (1770?– August 1843?), inventor of the Cherokee syllabary, was born in the Cherokee town of Tuskegee in present-day eastern Tennessee, of uncertain parentage. He married Sally (maiden name unknown) in 1815, and they had four children. According to Emmet Starr’s History of the Cherokee Indians...

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Taylor, Bayard (11 January 1825–19 December 1878), writer, was born in Kennett Square, Chester County, Pennsylvania, the son of Joseph Taylor and Rebecca Way, farmers. He was raised in an orderly Quaker household of quiet discipline, but, being a prodigious reader and student, he felt constrained by the provincial farming life of Chester County. His studies of languages and literature at Bolmar’s and Unionville academies only intensified his restlessness, and while still a high-school student Taylor published his first poem in 1841 with the ...