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Eighteenth-Century Science: Japan

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Chapter Summary

The eighteenth century was one of Western recognition of Japan against the Chinese background. During that period, Japanese thinkers became critical of the Chinese scholarship with which they had struggled to keep pace in the previous century; for the first time, Japanese intellectuals from the extreme eastern regions of Asia began to compare Chinese scholarship with the infiltrating Western science. It is extremely interesting to see what happens to a paradigm from one culture when it is introduced into another. This chapter examines the impact of this transplantation, mainly on three disciplines: mathematics, astronomy and medicine. The Jesuits had been evangelizing in Japan since the mid-sixteenth century. Medical practitioners who began to take on the challenge of Western science constituted the largest scientific profession during the Tokugawa period. Materia medica included the study of substances derived from plants, animals and minerals.

Keywords: astronomy; eighteenth century science; Japanese intellectuals; Jesuits; luni-solar calendars; materia medica; mathematics; Tokugawa period



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