History

Yale’s relationship with Brazil extends almost to the Brazilian War of Independence. From the time that João Francisco Lima entered the Yale School of Medicine in 1833, Yale has proved an exceptional training ground for Brazilian leaders. The first Brazilian to graduate from Yale, Carlos Fernando Ribeiro of Alcantara, graduated from Yale College in 1838 and from the School of Medicine in 1841. Ribeiro became the Secretary to the President of the Province of Maranhão, before eventually serving in the Chamber of Deputies in the General Assembly of Brazil. His case was certainly no isolated incident – Pompeo Ascenço de Sá graduated from Yale College with a B.A. in 1840, and by 1848 he was a Liberal member of the House of Representatives of the Maranhão Province. 

Yale’s strong academic programs brought increasing numbers of Brazilians to Yale in the 20th century. In the early 1900s, Yale continued to train leaders of Brazilian society, such as notable businessman Jayme Lopes Villas-Boas (Ph.D. 1917). By the 1918/19 school year, Brazilians represented the fourth largest block of Yale’s international student body. 

Brazil’s role in Yale’s history has not been restricted to the students who matriculate; historically, the nation and its language and culture have been a subject of study unto themselves. The teaching of Portuguese at Yale began in the early days of World War II, the presence of Portuguese at Yale can be traced to the Department of Romance Languages, headed by Henry Roseman Lang. Although there is no evidence that Professor Lang taught Portuguese, he did work with Portuguese medieval poetry and corresponded with Carolina Michaela de Vasconcellos, Adolfo Coelho, and other famous Portuguese linguists and philologists of the time. In 1908, he received Joaquim Nabuco, then the first Brazilian ambassador to the United States.

When Yale began instituting Area Studies programs in the mid-20th century, one of the first such programs to be created was the Latin American Studies major, introduced in 1953. Less than a decade later, Yale began offering Portuguese as an elective class, and in 1996 Yale introduced the Portuguese major.

Yale’s renewed emphasis on Brazil in the 1950s and 1960s paid dividends, and the University received an influx of talented and ambitious Brazilians eager to obtain the training they needed to make their mark on the world.

People of Note:

Malcolm Batchelor - Yale’s first professor of Portuguese
Professor Malcolm Batchelor taught Portuguese language and literature classes at Yale for 38 years, from 1943 through the 1981-82 academic year. Upon retirement, he created a fund for Portuguese at Yale, which supported visitors, lectures, and especially student fellowships. Since 1995, more than 35 undergraduate and graduate students received Batchelor fellowships for summer study in Brazil or Portugal. Currently, the Malcolm C. Batchelor Fund of the Department of Spanish and Portuguese sponsors one major conference annually on Luso-Brazilian literature and culture.

Emilia Viotti da Costa - Professor Emeritus History
A native of Brazil, Professor Emilia Viotti da Costa is a distinguished scholar of Latin American History, with a focus on Brazilian slavery. After the military takeover in 1964, she joined the Yale faculty in 1973 and taught at Yale for about 20 years. Professor da Costa trained many of the leading American specialists in Brazilian history. She was also director of Yale’s Women’s Studies Program and of the Council on Latin American Studies.

Richard McGee Morse (1922-2001) - Latin American historian and specialist on Brazil
Richard McGee Morse was a senior Latin American historian and specialist on Brazil. Professor Morse taught at Yale from 1962 to 1978. He was president of the Conference on Latin American History and served as the Ford Foundation director of its Brazilian fellowship program in the Social Sciences that had a major impact on Brazilian academic life. In 1993, professor Morse was awarded the Order of the Southern Cross for contributions to Brazilian culture (Comendador da Ordem do Cruzeiro do Sul), the nation’s highest honor for non-Brazilians.

Joaquim Nabuco (1849-1910) - First Brazilian ambassador to US and “friend of Yale”
Joaquim Nabuco is revered in Brazil for the abolition of slavery and considered as one of the most distinguished political and intellectual figures of his age. Nabuco’s tenure as Brazilian ambassador to the United States, during the presidency of Theodore Roosevelt, belongs to a period of the first pan-American conferences. In 1906, he arranged for Elihu Root to visit Brazil—the first visit by a U.S. Secretary of State to Latin America. Nabuco’s lectures at Yale were the first of a series that he delivered at six U.S. universities in 1908–1909. In 2008, Professor K.David Jackson organized a two-day conference commemorating the centenary of Nubuco’s lectures at Yale, which members of the Nuabuco family, Brazilian diplomatic corps, and officials of the Brazilian government attended.

The ties between Mexico and Yale are nearly as old as Yale’s status as an international university.  The origins lie in the first Mexicans to come to Yale. Julio Alberto Rice of Parral graduated in 1860 from the Sheffield Scientific School (a school of Yale College) and Ignacio M. Megia of Oaxaca graduated from the same school in 1863. Three years later, Zalarios Rojas de Molina graduated with an M.D. from the Yale School of Medicine, and began his illustrious career in Veracruz. There, he served as a Dean of the Faculty of Medical Sciences. Not long thereafter he joined the Mexican Army, where he served thirty-five years; he retired with rank of Lieutenant Colonel, and received the decoration of the Star and Cross. His distinguished service led him to become the delegate of Mexican Army Medical Corps to Kansas City in 1898 and to Washington in 1902. 

By 1904, only Canada, Japan, and England housed more Yale graduates than Mexico. Stewart Johnson ’02 graduated as a resident of Diaz, Mexico, and served as the general manager of the Mexican International Railroad Company before joining the US Department of State. Ultimately, Johnson became the Deputy Chief of the Latin American Division, and was able to play a strong role in Mexican-American relations, as well as Mexican-Yale relations. In recent years, the return of former President of Mexico Ernesto Zedillo to his alma mater as the head of the Yale Center for the Study of Globalization has created a strong nucleus around which Yale has built a significant partnership with Mexico.

Yale’s relationship to Mexico is not limited to its remarkable body of Mexican Yale graduates, but also has ramifications in the programs of study at the University. Academically, Yale has made Latin America a priority. Courses in Spanish have been offered at Yale since 1826. Since 1925, students at Yale have been able to major in Spanish and since 1946 they have been able to major in Latin American studies. 

Yale has also developed a number of collaborative programs in Latin America, and in Mexico in particular. In 1995, the Yale Law School introduced the Seminario en Latinoamérica de Teoría Constitucional y Política (SELA) program, in which scholars from Yale, Mexico and all across Latin America (including Instituto Tecnologico Autonomo de Mexico and Mexico’s Supreme Court) present and discuss papers. SELA has since become one of the most prestigious international legal university exchange programs.

Yale is involved in a number of other collaborative programs in Mexico. The Howard R. Lamar Center for the Study of Frontiers and Borders was established in 2000 to further historical and comparative explorations of the frontier experience in North America and throughout the world. The Center sponsors annual conferences and lectures by distinguished scholars from other institutions. The Bonampak Documentation Project, which was undertaken by Professor Mary Miller, completed a 50 percent life-size reconstruction of all three rooms of the ancient Maya murals at Bonampak, Chiapas.

In the last 10 years, Yale has built a strong partnership with Tecnológico de Monterrey (Tec). It began in 2005 with the Tec Summer Program at Yale University, which brought outstanding Mexican college students to study at Yale. This initial collaboration expanded to include Open Yale Courses added to Tec’s Knowledge Hub, joint programming during Yale Week in Mexico, an International Bulldogs in Monterrey internship program, a representative from Tec residing at Yale, educational programs, alumni events, and more. The partnership gave life to the Yale Visiting International Student Program in 2011, which brings a small cohort of top foreign students from partner institutions to Yale College for a one-year honors program. It has also impacted business students at Yale and in Mexico, who can participate in the Global Network for Advanced Management founded by Yale SOM.

Yale University is proud of its many collaborations and projects in Mexico, and especially of the extraordinary work of its graduates and affiliates in the region.

Yale University has had a longer and deeper relationship with China than any other university in the United States.  Its ties to China date to 1835 when Yale graduate Peter Parker opened China’s first Western style hospital, the Ophthalmic Infirmary, in Guangzhou. In addition to his pioneering work as a physician, Parker was one of the first Yale graduates to chronicle daily life in China.  His papers and medical illustrations, now housed in the Yale Medical Library, sparked the interest of Yale’s students and faculty in China.  

Over the next 100 years, the relationship strengthened. In 1854, Yung Wing (1828-1912) graduated from Yale College and became the first person from China to earn a degree from an American college or university. His subsequent gift of a substantial portion of his personal library forms the nucleus of Yale’s East Asia Library’s Chinese collection, which has grown to over 445,000 volumes and is considered one of the major collections in the United States. In 1878, the study of China became part of the Yale curriculum when Samuel Wells Williams, a former American missionary and diplomat in China, was appointed to teach. For this reason, Yale has been credited as the first American institutions to offer courses in Chinese.

In 1901, a group of Yale faculty and alumni launch the Yale-China Association, a private, non-profit organization based on the Yale campus, dedicated to the education in and about China. Sixty years later, the Council of East Asian Studies at Yale University (CEAS) was founded to facilitate the training of undergraduate and graduate students, and to foster outstanding education, research and intellectual exchange about East Asia. The interdisciplinary hub offers courses, degrees, fellowships, study abroad opportunities, and more.

Today, over 600 Chinese students and schools are at Yale. Since China initiated its “open door policy” in the late 1970s, academic exchanges and collaborations between Yale and China have expanded rapidly in many fields. Chinese students and scholars represent, by far, the largest complement of any foreign country in residence at Yale.

The partnership between Yale and China has extended to educational and exchange programs on campus and in China, such as The Richard U. Light Fellowship, the Peking University-Yale Distinguished Graduate Student Scholarly Exchange Program, and the Bulldogs Internship Program in Beijing, Shanghai, and Hong Kong. The Yale Law School has a China Center and the School of Management is inaugurating a Yale Leadership Center in Beijing in 2014.

There are over 100 separate research projects in a wide range of disciplines that are focused on China or involve partnerships between the Yale faculty and their colleagues in Chinese universities, governmental agencies, and independent research institutions.

Joint programs across the Yale’s graduate and professional schools with institutions in the UK allow for transatlantic education and learning. For example, the Yale School of Medicine has a faculty-led initiative called the Yale UCL Collaborative, a multi-disciplinary research, education and clinical collaboration between Yale University, Yale-New Haven Hospital, University College London (UCL) and UCL Partners. Though it originated in cardiovascular medicine, it has subsequently expanded to other biomedical fields and other disciplines, including engineering, history, philosophy, and law.  Also, the Yale School of Management has an exchange program with London School of Economics and Political Science, which allows participating students deepen their understanding of the business environment and culture of their host country.

Undergraduates in Yale College can study abroad for the summer or during the school year at institutions like Oxford, Cambridge, University of Edinburgh, and University of Glasgow. Fellowships that support educational exchange between the University and the United Kingdom include the Fox International Fellowship Program, the Saint Andrew’s Society Graduate Scholarship Program, the Keasby Scholarship, and the Henry Fellowship.

Yale is also connected to the UK through its abundant library and museum collections. Opened in 1977, the Yale Center for British Art holds the largest and most comprehensive collection of British art outside the United Kingdom. The Center’s collections of paintings, sculpture, drawings, prints, rare books, and manuscripts are complimented by a reference library with over 30,000 volumes supporting research in British art and related fields.

The Center supports and promotes scholarship by hosting visiting scholars; awarding grants; hosting symposia and other events. Its sister location, the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art in London, offers Yale undergraduates the opportunity to take spring or summer courses abroad. Both institutions were made possible through the generosity of Paul Mellon (B.A. 1929), who commissioned the buildings, donated his art and endowed the museums.

The Lewis Walpole Library is another repository for British collections, serving as a research center for eighteenth-century studies, whose collections include prints, drawings, manuscripts, rare books, paintings, and decorative arts.

Following the Meiji Restoration in 1868 the first students from Japan came to study in the United States. During the 1870–1871 academic year, R. Ohara studied at Yale Law School and during the 1872–1873 academic year, S. Tsuda studied at the Yale School of Art, though neither stayed to earn a degree from Yale. Between 1870 and 1900, sixty students from Japan studied at Yale with thirty-six earning Yale degrees. Among those alumni were Yale’s first Japanese graduates in Divinity (1887), Law (1878) and Medicine (1891), and the first Japanese recipient of a Yale Ph.D. (1889).

Yale’s first Japanese graduate was Kenjiro Yamakawa who entered Yale College in Fall 1872 and earned a Bachelor of Physics degree from the University’s Sheffield Scientific School in 1875. Following his graduation from Yale, Yamakawa returned to Japan where he became a renowned physicist, teacher, and university administrator. In 1896, while a faculty member at the Tokyo Imperial University, Yamakawa became the first to carry out x-ray research in Japan and is regarded as one of the founding figures of physics in Japan along with Aikitsu Tanakadate, Hantaro Nagaoka, and Torahiko Terada.

Professor Yamakawa went on to serve as the president of Tokyo Imperial University (now the University of Tokyo) and Kyoto Imperial University (now Kyoto University), and as the founding president of Kyushu Imperial University (now Kyushu University). During his tenure as president of the University of Tokyo, Yamakawa contributed to the modernization of university administration in Japan. In addition to being the first Japanese graduate of Yale, Yamakawa was among the earliest Japanese graduates of any university or college in the United States.

Another notable early Yale connection to Japan was the career of Dwight Whitney Learned who graduated from Yale College in 1870. Learned went to Japan in 1875 to become one of the first teachers at the Doshisha Eigakko (Doshisha Academy) in Kyoto, founded by Joseph Hardy Neesima. Learned lived and worked in Japan for more than five decades, teaching history at Doshisha University between 1875 and 1928 and serving as president of Doshisha University.

Yale was the first university in North America to offer a course related to Japan when it entered a Japanese language course to the curriculum in 1871.  Addison Van Name, the College Librarian, taught the course.  When Othniel Charles Marsh, Yale Professor of Paleontology and curator of the Peabody Museum of Natural History, donated $500 for the purchase of Japanese books, it was Van Name who used the funding to make the purchases.  However, the first Japanese book to be accessioned by the Yale Library was a donation in the year of the Meiji Restoration, 1868.  Earlier, the Library had acquired books in China (1849) through the assistance of missionary Samuel Wells Williams who later joined the faculty to teach Chinese civilization.   Together, these two collections became the nucleus of the East Asia Library and most of the items in them are now considered rare books.

Nowadays, Japan is ever more present at Yale:  every year Japanese students come to Yale to pursue their studies at the undergraduate, professional, and graduate levels; Japanese language classes are regularly taught and the graduate school offers a Ph.D. in Japanese literature; the Council on East Asian Studies routinely organizes lectures, cultural events, conferences, and educational activities centered on Japan that are open to the general public.

Yale has also fostered partnerships with universities in Japan to establish student exchange programs:  Yale Summer Session and Yale Summer Course Abroad; the Richard U. Light Fellowship; Fox International Fellowships; Yale School of Management’s Global Network for Advanced Management.  Students can even intern in Japan through the International Internships Program.  Faculty and scholars can also conduct research in Japan through a variety of fellowships and joint partnerships.

Yale-NUS is one of several joint endeavors between Yale and the National University of Singapore. Since 2001, Yale’s School of Forestry & Environmental Studies and the NUS School of Design and Environment have collaborated on a range of projects including shared teaching, program planning, research, and faculty and student exchanges. For many years Yale College has hosted NUS students each summer as part of the NUS Summer Program at Yale. Most recently, NUS became a program partner with Yale’s Visiting International Student Program.

Earlier connections between Yale and Singapore can be found among Yale’s alumni. One such person was James T. Dickinson, Class of 1826, ’30MDiv, the first Yale graduate to teach in the port city of Singapore.  (Singapore gained its current independent status in 1965.) Though upon graduation he practiced law, he soon followed a religious calling, studying at Andover Theological Seminary then earning his degree from Yale Divinity School. He became a pastor in 1832, but after his wife died a mere two years later he resigned and committed himself to missionary work abroad. After a year of medical study, he left for Singapore. In 1835 he received an appointment from the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions. Five years later, he was appointed deputy headmaster of the Singapore Institution (a secondary school founded in 1823 by Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles and eventually renamed the Raffles Institution). Dickinson was appointed headmaster of the Singapore Institution in 1843, but due to poor health was forced to return home shortly thereafter. 

(Summary of the article “A missionary in Singapore,” Yale Alumni Magazine, Nov/Dec 2013 https://www.yalealumnimagazine.com/articles/3781.)

The relationship between Yale and Turkey has particularly thrived over the last decade. The Yale Middle East Visiting Scholar Program, which ran from 2007 to 2010, and the World Fellows Program, which began in 2002, have brought Turkish leaders and scholars to campus. The Fox International Fellowship Program added Boğaziçi University as one of the 12 partner schools, allowing a direct two-way student exchange between Yale and Boğaziçi. In 2008, the International Bulldogs Program expanded to include Turkey, providing Yale College students with an opportunity to study, research, or work for nine-weeks of their summer in Istanbul.

In 2010, the first Yale Week in Turkey was organized to help Yale develop ties with Turkish institutions and the Turkish people. The trip aimed to raise Yale’s profile in the country and to leverage the highly organized, motivated, and connected Yale alumni in Turkey. Yale Week in Turkey included a high-profile forum on responsible business hosted by the World Fellows Program that was co-sponsored by Boğaziçi University and the United Nations Development Program and featured a key-note address by Yale alumnus, former Governor, and U.S. presidential candidate Howard Dean, performances in Istanbul, Ankara and Ismir by the Yale Symphony Orchestra with Turkish piano virtuoso Idil Birit, and a panel on 21st century education hosted by the Turkish Ministry of Education.

That same year, the Yale-Boğaziçi Arts Initiative was launched to bring students together around performing arts projects, while the alumni of YaleGALE  (Global Alumni Leadership Exchange) went to Turkey to meet with representatives from eight Turkish universities to discuss how to develop alumni relations and foster alumni communities.

In addition to these institutional initiatives, Yale faculty members have undertaken independent research projects and collaborations in Turkey spanning 12 fields, from astronomy to art history, education, and geology. In 2008, for example, a Yale professor of surgery and radiology facilitated faculty and student exchange programs, sending Yale researchers to the Cerrahpasa Medical School and the University of Istanbul and hosting researchers here at Yale.

Yale schools and faculty have been extremely successful in forging partnerships with Ghanaian universities and institutions. The Yale Global Health Leadership Institute has worked with delegations from Ghana since its inception on the issue of mental health. The Yale School of Medicine works with the Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research at the University of Ghana to investigate infectious diseases and foster more effective evidence-based health policy. The Yale School of Medicine signed an agreement with Ghana Health Service to establish the Ghana-Yale Partnerships for Global Health, which will allow the provision of expertise, operational research, and consultation to the GHS in a range of issues initially focused on HIV, malaria, and other parasitic diseases.

Yale also became a partner institution of a global consortium announced by President John Dramani Mahama that will fulfill his pledge to eliminate Mother-to-Child Transmission of HIV in Ghana. Under the initiative, Yale faculty experts will engage in collaborative research, education, and training to support care providers and public health officers.

Though the partnerships are strong in medicine and public health, they span to other fields. For example, Yale’s Economic Growth Center has partnered with the University of Ghana’s Institute for Statistical, Social and Economic Research to conduct the first long-term longitudinal socio-economic survey in West Africa. Yale Professors are also working with the University of Ghana faculty to establish the Ghana Research Cluster, a national initiative that works with collaborators from four universities and research institutes in Ghana to evaluate development interventions in the country.

Yale alumni have also increased engagement with and in Ghana. The Yale Alumni Service Corps began volunteering there in 2012; two years the Yale Percussion Group and Yale Concert Band traveled to the region to perform, research Ghanaian drumming masters, and engage in service projects. The Yale Club of Ghana was officially established in 2014 after two years of organizing events and programs, the Yale Green Ghana campaign, which was launched under the theme, ‘Recycling, a shared responsibility for environmental sustainability.’

Yale University’s historical ties to India extend back to its namesake, Elihu Yale, who lived and worked in India for nearly three decades with the British East India Company from 1670 to 1699. Yale administered Fort St. George in Madras (present-day Chennai, capital of the state of Tamil Nadu) as its governor between 1687 and 1692. In 1718, Yale donated to the Collegiate School of Connecticut three bales of goods, 417 books, a portrait of King George I and a set of royal arms. Madras cotton, silk and other textiles from India were among the bales of donated goods. Their sale raised 562 English pounds for the construction of the University’s first building. In gratitude for their benefactor’s generosity, the Collegiate School’s administrators changed the institution’s name to Yale College.

Yale was the first academic institution to teach Sanskrit in the Western Hemisphere. Sanskrit has been taught continuously at Yale since the late 1840s when Professor Edward E. Salisbury introduced Sanskrit to the University curriculum. In 1854, he endowed a permanent professorial chair in Sanskrit, which was filled in the same year by his student, William Dwight Whitney. The Edward E. Salisbury Professorship of Sanskrit and Comparative Philology is the second oldest endowed Sanskrit chair in the United States. Although Harvard’s Wales Professorship of Sanskrit was the first endowed chair of Sanskrit in the United States, its first occupant, Charles R. Lanman, did not fill the position until 1880. Lanman was a Yale alumnus and student of Whitney’s.

It was Yale’s history of training students for missionary activities that brought the earliest known graduate of Yale from India. Sumantro Vishnu Karmarkar from Ahmednagar graduated in 1892 with a bachelor’s degree in divinity and returned to India where he worked as a Christian missionary in what is now Maharashtra state in the western region of the country. Since Karmarkar, the number of prominent Indians to graduate from Yale has grown exponentially to include such luminaries as: Rakesh Mohan ‘71, Deputy Governor, Reserve Bank of India; Indra Nooyi SOM ‘80, Chairman of the Board and CEO, PepsiCo; Ramesh Ramanathan SOM ‘91, Founder, Janaagraha Centre for Citizenship and Democracy; T.N. Srinivasan Ph.D. ‘62, Samuel C. Park, Jr. Professor of Economics, Yale University; and Fareed Zakaria ’86, Editor, Newsweek International.

Nigerian students and scholars have enriched the Yale campus and community for years. Notable Yale alumni from the country include Dr. Haroun Al-Rashid Adamu ’70, journalist and founder of the Zaria Academy in Nigeria, and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie ’80MA, award-winning novelist and author of Purple Hibiscus (2003) and Americanah (2013). Furthermore, since its inception in 2002, the Yale World Fellows program has brought to campus eight scholars and practitioners recognized for their work in medicine, media, finance, human and women’s rights in Nigeria. 

Yale students and faculty have also traveled to Nigeria, engaging in research projects and collaborations that further connect university and country. For example, students at the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies have traveled to Nigeria to study children and nature, sustainable sanitation, and soil properties through a Tropical Resources Institute Fellowship. Faculty have also engaged with the country, through the research in the fields of art history, AIDS, malaria, silviculture, psychiatry and more.

Subscribe to History