Ferdinand Verbiest

1623-1688. Jesuit missionary to China.* A Dutchman trained in mathematics and astronomy, he became assistant to J.A. Schall* in Peking and unsuccessfully defended the Jesuits against the false accusers who would have had Schall executed. After the latter's death and a controversy over the Calendar, he was appointed, like Schall had been, president of the board of astronomy in succession to his discredited Chinese predecessor. Verbiest and other missionaries had close and friendly contacts with Emperor Kang Hsi (who studied mathematics under Verbiest's tuition), for whom they conducted all kinds of public works. Although the emperor turned a blind eye to the law that prohibited Chinese from becoming Christians, Verbiest was convinced that the future of Christianity lay in the hands of the Chinese clergy, and he founded a seminary in which they could be trained.