Yale University

The International Room at Sterling Library.

The International Room at Sterling Library, Yale University

Innovations and Leadership in Academia

The legacy of Yale graduates and faculty to scholarship is felt throughout the world, from the introduction of new fields of study and inovations in teaching to significant discoveries.

Peter Parker
B.A. 1831, M.D 1834

Dr. Parker first traveled to China in 1834 as a medical missionary and while there founded the Ophthalmic Hospital of Canton and co-founded the Medical Missionary Society of China. In addition to his pioneering work as a physician, he was one of the first Yale graduates to chronicle daily life in China. His papers and medical illustrations, executed in collaboration with the Chinese painter Lam Qua, are now housed in the Yale Medical History Library.


Hiram Bingham
B.A. 1898

In 1911, Bingham organized and directed the Yale Peruvian Expedition, which rediscovered the lost mountaintop ruins of the Inca settlement of Machu Picchu. Bingham taught South American and Latin American history at Yale from 1907 to 1924.


Myres McDougal
J.S.D. 1931

Known as the father of international law, McDougal was a Yale Law School professor for fifty years. In colla-boration with his students, he produced six major treatises on international legal issues, including the law of the sea, the law of outer space, the law of war, and the law of human rights.


Yung Wing
B.A. 1854

Yung Wing was the first person from China to earn a degree from an American university. In the 1870s, he founded the Chinese Education Mission, an organization that brought Chinese students to the United States, many of whom went on to play major roles in the modernization of China.

University Leaders

Yale alumni have a long history of leadership in higher education. Some notable examples from China include three of the first four presidents of Tsinghua University, the first president of Fudan University, and the early presidents of Peking University and Fudan Shanghai Medical School.


Yale-China Association

Founded by Yale graduates in 1901, the Yale-China Association, a nonprofit organization that is closely tied to Yale, has served to promote mutual understanding between Chinese and Americans through teaching and service. Generations of Yale graduates have taught at schools and universities in China under its auspices. Yale-China also established and supported the development of numerous educational institutions in China.

Today, Yale-China sponsors fellowships, exchanges, scholarships, and short- and long-term teaching and training programs in the fields of public health and nursing, English language instruction, legal education, American studies, and community and public service.


Samuel Wells Williams

Appointed in 1876 as the first professor of Chinese language and literature in the United States, Williams was a former American missionary and diplomat in China as well as a renowned linguist and sinologist.


Benjamin Silliman
B.A. 1796, M.A. 1799

Considered the father of modern scientific education in America, in 1805 Silliman was the first science professor in the United States to be sent abroad on a scientific mission. He created the first modern science course in the United States and traveled to Europe to study and to purchase books for the library and apparatus for the laboratories (notes from his trip are shown above). While there he collected specimens for Yale’s mineral collection, which is now housed at the Peabody Museum of Natural History. It has grown to be one of the largest mineral collections in the United States.

Edward E. Salisbury
B.A. 1832, M.A. 1835

Yale became the first academic institution in the Western hemisphere where Sanskrit could be studied when in 1841 Salisbury was appointed Professor of Arabic and Sanskrit Language and Literature. In 1854, he endowed a permanent chair in Sanskrit.


Kan’ichi Asakawa
Ph.D. 1902

Asakawa is the first person from Japan to earn a doctorate in the United States. He is also the first Japanese professor to teach at a major American university, and is considered the founder of the field of East Asian studies in the United States. In 2007, a Japanese-style garden was named in his honor in the courtyard of Saybrook College, where he was a resident in the 1930s.


Albert Ernst Rudolph Goetze

Goetze, who taught at Yale from 1936 to 1965, discovered tablets of the earliest Babylonian law code, thereby ushering in a new phase in the study of ancient legal codes. These tablets became part of the Yale Babylonian Collection, the largest collection of documents, seals, and other artifacts from ancient Mesopotamia in the United States and one of the leading collections of cuneiform tablets in the world.

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