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Samuel Wells Williams

1812-1884. Early American missionary, diplomat, and authority on China. Specially trained as a printer, he was sent by the American Board to Canton in 1833. There he cooperated with Elijah Bridgman* in editing and printing The Chinese Repository and other literary works. Unsettled conditions forced them to move the press to Macao in 1835. During an extended furlough in the USA (1844-48), Williams produced his great two-volume Middle Kingdom, for many years the standard work on China. He also learned Japanese from some shipwrecked sailors and in 1837 was part of the expedition that tried to return them to Japan. After 1853 he became involved in diplomatic affairs, first as interpreter on Commodore Perry's visit to Japan, then for twenty years as secretary and interpreter to the American legation in China. He was professor of Chinese language and literature at Yale (1877-84), ninth president of the American Bible Society (1881-84), and president of the American Oriental Society.