Nathan Sivin
Nathan Sivin also known as Xiwen is an American
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

An author is broadly defined as "the person who originates or gives existence to anything" and that authorship determines responsibility for what is created. Narrowly defined, an author is the originator of any written work.-Legal significance:...

, scholar, sinologist, historian
A historian is a person who studies and writes about the past and is regarded as an authority on it. Historians are concerned with the continuous, methodical narrative and research of past events as relating to the human race; as well as the study of all history in time. If the individual is...

, essayist, and currently professor
A professor is a scholarly teacher; the precise meaning of the term varies by country. Literally, professor derives from Latin as a "person who professes" being usually an expert in arts or sciences; a teacher of high rank...

Emeritus is a post-positive adjective that is used to designate a retired professor, bishop, or other professional or as a title. The female equivalent emerita is also sometimes used.-History:...

 at the University of Pennsylvania
University of Pennsylvania
The University of Pennsylvania is a private, Ivy League university located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States. Penn is the fourth-oldest institution of higher education in the United States,Penn is the fourth-oldest using the founding dates claimed by each institution...

. He resides in Philadelphia with his wife, the artist Carole Sivin.

The major areas of study and focus in Nathan Sivin's career and written publications have been in the history of science and technology in China
History of science and technology in China
The history of science and technology in China is both long and rich with many contributions to science and technology. In antiquity, independently of other civilizations, ancient Chinese philosophers made significant advances in science, technology, mathematics, and astronomy...

, Traditional Chinese Medicine
Traditional Chinese medicine
Traditional Chinese Medicine refers to a broad range of medicine practices sharing common theoretical concepts which have been developed in China and are based on a tradition of more than 2,000 years, including various forms of herbal medicine, acupuncture, massage , exercise , and dietary therapy...

, Chinese philosophy
Chinese philosophy
Chinese philosophy is philosophy written in the Chinese tradition of thought. The majority of traditional Chinese philosophy originates in the Spring and Autumn and Warring States era, during a period known as the "Hundred Schools of Thought", which was characterized by significant intellectual and...

, and Chinese religious beliefs
Chinese mythology
Chinese mythology is a collection of cultural history, folktales, and religions that have been passed down in oral or written tradition. These include creation myths and legends and myths concerning the founding of Chinese culture and the Chinese state...

. He speaks four different foreign language
Foreign language
A foreign language is a language indigenous to another country. It is also a language not spoken in the native country of the person referred to, i.e. an English speaker living in Japan can say that Japanese is a foreign language to him or her...

s and has traveled abroad to many countries, on four continents, numerous times since the 1960s. In his written works he has also collaborated with many other prominent sinologists, such as G.E.R. Lloyd and Joseph Needham
Joseph Needham
Noel Joseph Terence Montgomery Needham, CH, FRS, FBA , also known as Li Yuese , was a British scientist, historian and sinologist known for his scientific research and writing on the history of Chinese science. He was elected a fellow of the Royal Society in 1941, and as a fellow of the British...


Education and career

From 1954 until 1956, Sivin was enrolled in an 18 month language program for Chinese
Chinese language
The Chinese language is a language or language family consisting of varieties which are mutually intelligible to varying degrees. Originally the indigenous languages spoken by the Han Chinese in China, it forms one of the branches of Sino-Tibetan family of languages...

 at the U.S. Army Language School
Defense Language Institute
The Defense Language Institute is a United States Department of Defense educational and research institution, which provides linguistic and cultural instruction to the Department of Defense, other Federal Agencies and numerous and varied other customers...

. He then went on to receive his Bachelor of Science
Bachelor of Science
A Bachelor of Science is an undergraduate academic degree awarded for completed courses that generally last three to five years .-Australia:In Australia, the BSc is a 3 year degree, offered from 1st year on...

 degree with a chemistry
Chemistry is the science of matter, especially its chemical reactions, but also its composition, structure and properties. Chemistry is concerned with atoms and their interactions with other atoms, and particularly with the properties of chemical bonds....

 minor at MIT in June 1958. He received his MA
Master of Arts (postgraduate)
A Master of Arts from the Latin Magister Artium, is a type of Master's degree awarded by universities in many countries. The M.A. is usually contrasted with the M.S. or M.Sc. degrees...

 in the History of Science from Harvard University
Harvard University
Harvard University is a private Ivy League university located in Cambridge, Massachusetts, United States, established in 1636 by the Massachusetts legislature. Harvard is the oldest institution of higher learning in the United States and the first corporation chartered in the country...

 in June 1960, and his Ph.D.
A Ph.D. is a Doctor of Philosophy, an academic degree.Ph.D. may also refer to:* Ph.D. , a 1980s British group*Piled Higher and Deeper, a web comic strip*PhD: Phantasy Degree, a Korean comic series* PhD Docbook renderer, an XML renderer...

 in the History of Science at Harvard University in January 1966. Finally, in October 1978 he received his Honorary M. A. from the University of Pennsylvania.

In 1966 Nathan Sivin served as the Assistant Professor of Humanities at MIT, an Associate Professor at MIT since 1969, Professor at MIT since 1972, and in 1977 moved to Pennsylvania
The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania is a U.S. state that is located in the Northeastern and Mid-Atlantic regions of the United States. The state borders Delaware and Maryland to the south, West Virginia to the southwest, Ohio to the west, New York and Ontario, Canada, to the north, and New Jersey to...

 where he was employed as Professor of Chinese Culture and of the History of Science
History of science
The history of science is the study of the historical development of human understandings of the natural world and the domains of the social sciences....

 at the University of Pennsylvania.

Nathan Sivin has studied abroad on many occasions. From October 1961 to August 1962 he studied Chinese language and philosophy at Taipei
Taipei City is the capital of the Republic of China and the central city of the largest metropolitan area of Taiwan. Situated at the northern tip of the island, Taipei is located on the Tamsui River, and is about 25 km southwest of Keelung, its port on the Pacific Ocean...

 in Taiwan
Taiwan , also known, especially in the past, as Formosa , is the largest island of the same-named island group of East Asia in the western Pacific Ocean and located off the southeastern coast of mainland China. The island forms over 99% of the current territory of the Republic of China following...

. From August 1962 to March 1963 he studied the history of Chinese alchemy
Alchemy is an influential philosophical tradition whose early practitioners’ claims to profound powers were known from antiquity. The defining objectives of alchemy are varied; these include the creation of the fabled philosopher's stone possessing powers including the capability of turning base...

 in Singapore
Singapore , officially the Republic of Singapore, is a Southeast Asian city-state off the southern tip of the Malay Peninsula, north of the equator. An island country made up of 63 islands, it is separated from Malaysia by the Straits of Johor to its north and from Indonesia's Riau Islands by the...

 and provided guest lectures there. From the 1960s until the 1980s he was an avid visitor to Kyoto
is a city in the central part of the island of Honshū, Japan. It has a population close to 1.5 million. Formerly the imperial capital of Japan, it is now the capital of Kyoto Prefecture, as well as a major part of the Osaka-Kobe-Kyoto metropolitan area.-History:...

 in Japan
Japan is an island nation in East Asia. Located in the Pacific Ocean, it lies to the east of the Sea of Japan, China, North Korea, South Korea and Russia, stretching from the Sea of Okhotsk in the north to the East China Sea and Taiwan in the south...

, where he acted as a visiting professor, studied at the Research Institute of Humanistic Studies, and studied Chinese astronomy
Chinese astronomy
Astronomy in China has a very long history, with historians considering that "they [the Chinese] were the most persistent and accurate observers of celestial phenomena anywhere in the world before the Arabs."...

, alchemy, and medicine. From 1974 to 2000 he made numerous trips to Cambridge
The city of Cambridge is a university town and the administrative centre of the county of Cambridgeshire, England. It lies in East Anglia about north of London. Cambridge is at the heart of the high-technology centre known as Silicon Fen – a play on Silicon Valley and the fens surrounding the...

 in Great Britain
Great Britain
Great Britain or Britain is an island situated to the northwest of Continental Europe. It is the ninth largest island in the world, and the largest European island, as well as the largest of the British Isles...

 in order to study Chinese astronomy, visiting Gonville and Caius College, the Needham Research Institute
Needham Research Institute
The Needham Research Institute or NRI, located on the grounds of the Robinson College, in Cambridge, England, is a center for research into the history of science, technology and medicine in East Asia. It is part of the University of Cambridge...

, and St. John's College in the process. From the late 1970s until the late 1990s he traveled several times to the People's Republic of China
People's Republic of China
China , officially the People's Republic of China , is the most populous country in the world, with over 1.3 billion citizens. Located in East Asia, the country covers approximately 9.6 million square kilometres...

. In September 1979 he lectured in seminars at the École Pratique des Hautes Etudes
École pratique des hautes études
The École pratique des hautes études is a Grand Établissement in Paris, France. It is counted among France's most prestigious research and higher education institutions....

 of Paris
Paris is the capital and largest city in France, situated on the river Seine, in northern France, at the heart of the Île-de-France region...

, France
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

, and at the Sinologisches Seminar at the University of Würzburg
University of Würzburg
The University of Würzburg is a university in Würzburg, Germany, founded in 1402. The university is a member of the distinguished Coimbra Group.-Name:...

 in Germany
Germany , officially the Federal Republic of Germany , is a federal parliamentary republic in Europe. The country consists of 16 states while the capital and largest city is Berlin. Germany covers an area of 357,021 km2 and has a largely temperate seasonal climate...

 from June to July 1981. Nathan Sivin also speaks several foreign languages, including Chinese
Chinese language
The Chinese language is a language or language family consisting of varieties which are mutually intelligible to varying degrees. Originally the indigenous languages spoken by the Han Chinese in China, it forms one of the branches of Sino-Tibetan family of languages...

, Japanese
Japanese language
is a language spoken by over 130 million people in Japan and in Japanese emigrant communities. It is a member of the Japonic language family, which has a number of proposed relationships with other languages, none of which has gained wide acceptance among historical linguists .Japanese is an...

, German
German language
German is a West Germanic language, related to and classified alongside English and Dutch. With an estimated 90 – 98 million native speakers, German is one of the world's major languages and is the most widely-spoken first language in the European Union....

, and French
French language
French is a Romance language spoken as a first language in France, the Romandy region in Switzerland, Wallonia and Brussels in Belgium, Monaco, the regions of Quebec and Acadia in Canada, and by various communities elsewhere. Second-language speakers of French are distributed throughout many parts...


Along with various responsibilities at the University of Pennsylvania, throughout his career Nathan Sivin was also an elective member of numerous societies and committees. This included the American Society for the Study of Religion, the Philomathean Society
Philomathean Society
The Philomathean Society of the University of Pennsylvania is a collegiate literary society, the oldest student group at the university, and a claimant to the title of the oldest continuously-existing literary society in the United States.This claim is disputed between the Philomathean Society and...

, the Académie Internationale d'Histoire des Sciences, the T'ang Studies Society, and many others.

Along with numerous book publications since the 1960s, Nathan Sivin also wrote many more essays from the 1960s onwards. He has also given over 200 lectures throughout Europe
Europe is, by convention, one of the world's seven continents. Comprising the westernmost peninsula of Eurasia, Europe is generally 'divided' from Asia to its east by the watershed divides of the Ural and Caucasus Mountains, the Ural River, the Caspian and Black Seas, and the waterways connecting...

, Asia
Asia is the world's largest and most populous continent, located primarily in the eastern and northern hemispheres. It covers 8.7% of the Earth's total surface area and with approximately 3.879 billion people, it hosts 60% of the world's current human population...

, Australia
Australia , officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a country in the Southern Hemisphere comprising the mainland of the Australian continent, the island of Tasmania, and numerous smaller islands in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. It is the world's sixth-largest country by total area...

, and North America
North America
North America is a continent wholly within the Northern Hemisphere and almost wholly within the Western Hemisphere. It is also considered a northern subcontinent of the Americas...

. He is currently working on several projects, including a biography on the Song Dynasty
Song Dynasty
The Song Dynasty was a ruling dynasty in China between 960 and 1279; it succeeded the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms Period, and was followed by the Yuan Dynasty. It was the first government in world history to issue banknotes or paper money, and the first Chinese government to establish a...

A polymath is a person whose expertise spans a significant number of different subject areas. In less formal terms, a polymath may simply be someone who is very knowledgeable...

 scientist Shen Kuo
Shen Kuo
Shen Kuo or Shen Gua , style name Cunzhong and pseudonym Mengqi Weng , was a polymathic Chinese scientist and statesman of the Song Dynasty...

 and a translation into English
English language
English is a West Germanic language that arose in the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms of England and spread into what was to become south-east Scotland under the influence of the Anglian medieval kingdom of Northumbria...

 of a Yuan Dynasty
Yuan Dynasty
The Yuan Dynasty , or Great Yuan Empire was a ruling dynasty founded by the Mongol leader Kublai Khan, who ruled most of present-day China, all of modern Mongolia and its surrounding areas, lasting officially from 1271 to 1368. It is considered both as a division of the Mongol Empire and as an...

 calendrical treatise published in 1279 AD, the Season-Granting (a hallmark of Chinese mathematical astronomy).

Selected works

In a statistical overview derived from writings by and about Nathan Sivin, OCLC
OCLC Online Computer Library Center, Inc. is "a nonprofit, membership, computer library service and research organization dedicated to the public purposes of furthering access to the world’s information and reducing information costs"...

WorldCat is a union catalog which itemizes the collections of 72,000 libraries in 170 countries and territories which participate in the Online Computer Library Center global cooperative...

 encompasses roughly 50 works in 80+ publications in 7 languages and 4,000+ library holdings.
  • 1968. Chinese Alchemy: Preliminary Studies. Harvard Monographs in the History of Science, 1. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Chinese translation, Taipei: National Translation Bureau, 1973.
  • 1969. Cosmos and Computation in Early Chinese Mathematical Astronomy. Leiden: E. J. Brill. Separate book version of 1969 essay (see below).
  • 1973. Chinese Science: Explorations of an Ancient Tradition. MIT East Asian Science Series, 2. Edited by Shigeru Nakayama & N.S. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. Includes an introduction and three articles by N.S., listed below.
  • 1977. Science and Technology in East Asia. Articles from Isis, 1913–1975. Selected and edited by N.S. New York: Science History Publications. Includes an introduction and an article by N.S., listed below.
  • 1979. Astronomy in Contemporary China. A Trip Report of the American Astronomy Delegation. By ten members of the Delegation. CSCPRC Reports, 7. Washington, DC: National Academy of Sciences. Includes several contributions by N.S., including a chapter on the history of astronomy.
  • 1980. Science and Civilisation in China. Vol. 5, Part 4. Chemical Discovery. By Joseph Needham, Lu Gwei-djen, Ho Ping-yu, & N.S. Cambridge, England: At the University Press. Includes a section by N.S. on the theoretical background of laboratory alchemy.
  • 1984. Chūgoku no Kopernikusu (Copernicus in China), trans. Nakayama Shigeru & Ushiyama Teruyo 牛山輝代. Selected essays by N.S., 1. Tokyo: Shisakusha.
  • 1985. Chūgoku no renkinjutsu to ijutsu (Chinese alchemy and medicine), trans. Nakayama & Ushiyama. Idem, 2.
  • 1987. Traditional Medicine in Contemporary China. A Partial Translation of Revised Outline of Chinese Medicine (1972) with an Introductory Study on Change in Present-day and Early Medicine. Science, Medicine and Technology in East Asia, 2. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan, Center for Chinese Studies.
  • 1988. Contemporary Atlas of China. Boston: Houghton Mifflin. Consulting Editor. German translation: Bildatlas China. München: Südwest, 1989.
  • 1989. Science and Medicine in Twentieth-Century China: Research and Education, ed. John Z. Bowers, William J. Hess, & N.S. Science, Medicine, and Technology in East Asia, 3. Ann Arbor: Center for Chinese Studies, University of Michigan.
  • 1995. Science in Ancient China. Researches and Reflections. Variorum Collected Studies Series. Aldershot, Hants: Variorum.
  • 1995. Medicine, Philosophy and Religion in Ancient China. Researches and Reflections. Variorum Collected Studies Series. Idem.
  • 1996. History of Humanity. Scientific and Cultural Development. Vol. III. From the Seventh Century BC to the Seventh Century AD, ed. J. Herrmann & E. Zürcher. Paris: UNESCO. Integrated contributions on science, medicine, and technology.
  • 2000. Science and Civilisation in China. Vol. 6, pt. 6. Medicine. Edited and with an Introduction by N.S. Cambridge University Press.
  • 2002. The Way and the Word. Science and Medicine in Early Greece and China (with Sir Geoffrey Lloyd). Yale University Press.

See also

  • List of Sinologists
  • List of American authors
  • List of historians
  • History of China
    History of China
    Chinese civilization originated in various regional centers along both the Yellow River and the Yangtze River valleys in the Neolithic era, but the Yellow River is said to be the Cradle of Chinese Civilization. With thousands of years of continuous history, China is one of the world's oldest...

  • Technology of the Song Dynasty
    Technology of the Song Dynasty
    The Song Dynasty provided some of the most significant technological advances in Chinese history, many of which came from talented statesmen drafted by the government through imperial examinations....

External links

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