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When Science Develops Outside State Patronage: Dutch Studies in Japan At the Turn of the Nineteenth Century

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It is one of the peculiar features of the movement of translation of Western scientific treatises from Dutch into Japanese, known as Dutch learning (rangaku), that if first originated in Nagasaki with a group of Japanese interpreters. This group differed from the scholarly community of the capital, Edo, by both training and social status. This article shows how this difference contributes to explaining some of the particularities of rangaku in its initial phase. A case in point is Shizuki Tadao's introduction of Newtonian physics and astronomy. Yet, Sugita Genpaku, a major representative of the Edo scholarly community, gave an account of the beginning of Dutch learning that attempted to minimise, or even to erase, the contribution of the Nagasaki interpreters, who were dismissed as unscholarly. This attempt, too, is best understood in the light of the difference between the two communities.

Affiliations: 1: Université Paris 7/UMR 7129 (CNRS/EPHE)


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