Wm. Theodore de Bary, Renowned Columbia Sinologist, Dies at 97

Historians in the News
tags: obituary, Wm Theodore de Bary



Wm. Theodore de Bary, a venerable Columbia University educator and distinguished scholar of China who was credited with broadening the way colleges nationwide study Asia, died on Friday at his home in Tappan, N.Y. He was 97.

His death was announced by Robert Hornsby, a spokesman for the university.

Professor de Bary was an internationally esteemed Sinologist with a shelf of at least 30 books to his credit, either written or edited by him, and a bevy of academic awards and honors, including the National Humanities Medal, presented by President Barack Obama.

More locally, on the university campus in Morningside Heights in Manhattan, he was the consummate Columbia man — “one of the towering figures of modern Columbia history,” as Columbia College Today declared in 2013, a courtly figure “with the bow-tied elegance and comportment of a seasoned ambassador.”

As an editor, Professor de Bary presented thinkers from various Asian cultures in their own words in dozens of books that became standards in the field, elevating Asian studies far beyond Columbia to a prominence once reserved for European scholarship. In 1987, The New York Times reported that his “Sources of Chinese Tradition” had been the fourth-best-selling nonfiction book in universities over the last 25 years. ...




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