Biography and History

William Elliot Griffis was an American orientalist, congregational minister, lecturer, and prolific author. He attended Rutgers University at New Brunswick, New Jersey, graduating in 1869. In September 1870 Griffis was invited to Japan by the Fukui Lord Matsudaira Shungaku, for the purpose of organizing schools along modern lines, and, in 1871, he was Superintendent of Education in the province of Echizen. Griffis taught chemistry and physics at Kaisei Gakko (forerunner of Tokyo Imperial University). He prepared the New Japan Series of Reading and Spelling Books (1872) and published primers for Japanese students of the English language. He contributed numerous articles of importance on Japanese affairs to the Japanese press and to newspapers and magazines in the United States. Griffis published Hepburn of Japan and his Wife and Helpmates: A Life Story of Toil for Christ in 1913.

At the age of fourteen James Curtis Hepburn matriculated as a junior in the College of New Jersey (now Princeton University) from which he graduated in 1832, earning an A.M. degree in 1835. He attended the University of Pennsylvania Medical School and graduated with an M.D. in 1836. In 1841 Hepburn accepted an assignment from the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions to work among the Chinese people; in 1859 when Japan opened its ports to American trade, Hepburn requested permission to go and work there. In the years that Hepburn served as a medical missionary he aided in the growth of both the Protestant Church and the medical profession in Japan. He was honored by his colleagues in Japan and in the United States for his contributions to lexicography and education, and was awarded "The Third Order of Merit of the Rising Sun" for services to spiritual and educational causes in Japan by the Japanese Emperor Mitsuhito.

Source: From the finding aid for C1243

  • William Elliot Griffis Collection. 1873-1903 (inclusive).

    Call Number: C1243

    Consists of correspondence and manuscripts related to the history of the 1859 mission of the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. in Japan and the role of James Curtis Hepburn in making it a success, collected by William Elliot Griffis for the purpose of writing a book.