East Asian Studies at Columbia

Brander Matthews and Theater Studies at Columbia

Edwin Armstrong: Pioneer of the Airwaves

George Sansome
L. Carrington Goodrich
Ryusaku Tsunoda
Wm. Theodore de Bary

COLUMBIA'S EARLY START in East Asian studies is attributable to the initiatives of two Asian émigrés—one from China and one from Japan. Both men, dedicated to their home cultures, sought to encourage their study in an adopted land. Dean Lung (“Dean” is a family name) was the servant of Horace Walpole Carpentier, a Columbia Trustee at the turn of the century. From his modest means, Dean Lung presented the University with $12,000 in support of Chinese studies, and General Carpentier quickly augmented the gift.

Ryusaku Tsunoda ’62HON, who came to the United States from Japan in 1917, fulfilled a great ambition when he rallied the support necessary to create a library and a center for Japanese studies—which became the Japanese Collection at Columbia. Though he himself held no advanced degrees, for decades he served as a dedicated mentor to Columbia students and faculty, among them George Sansom, the eminent British historian of Japan who would eventually become the first director of Columbia’s East Asian Institute.

The undersigned and University Professor Emeritus Donald Keene ’42C ’50GSAS—authors of two of the essays presented here—were both pre– and post–World War II students of Tsunoda and Sansom, and also of L. Carrington Goodrich ’34GSAS ’62HON, whose leadership of the Chinese program in the thirties and forties established a firm footing for Chinese studies in fulfillment of Dean Lung’s early ambition. Asian studies expanded greatly at Columbia in the fifties and sixties, and especially in connection with the undergraduate program of core general education courses in Asian studies and with the graduate program at the East Asian Institute. This further development will be presented in a later issue of “Living Legacies.” In this issue we honor those whose early, seminal contributions were relatively inconspicuous on campus at that time, and whose careers were somewhat less celebrated in their own time than those of the famous figures previously featured in “Living Legacies.”

Brander Matthews
DRAMA AS A PERFORMING ART, and education as a gentlemanly pursuit, had long thriven separately in New York City before Brander Matthews’ natural interest in the two won out over his father’s ambition for his son: to succeed to the “profession of a millionaire,” well enough off so that he would be free to consider a political career. But when his father lost most of his fortune, Matthews was forced to earn his own living working as a lawyer in his father's business. As Columbia’s and America’s luck had it, the failure of the father’s business, soon after the son’s graduation from Columbia College (1871) and Law School (1873), the young Matthews had recovered enough from his father's financial ruin to pursue his own love and talent for playwriting, and eventually to move into theater reviewing and literary criticism. Today the Brander Matthews Chair in Dramatic Literature at Columbia University, occupied by Martin Meisel ’87C and formerly by Joseph Wood Krutch ’24GSAS ’54HON, Eric Bentley, and Robert Brustein, bears his name.

The story of how Matthews went on to teach English literature at Columbia, then to become the first professor of dramatic literature in America, is also the story of New York City as the hub of American theater and literary criticism in the late nineteenth century. It is told here by Howard Stein, former chair of the Oscar Hammerstein II Center for Theater Studies and professor of theater at Columbia, author of A Time to Speak (Harcourt Brace, 1974), and now a member of the Society of Senior Scholars in Columbia’s Heyman Center for the Humanities.

PERHAPS FEW OF THE THOUSANDS who look across the Hudson toward the Palisades at Alpine, New Jersey, or the thousands who from the Palisades Parkway see a giant antenna rising to the sky with its red warning lights, see this tower as a stolid, surviving monument to the engineering genius of Major Edwin Armstrong ’13E ’29HON, professor of electrical engineering at Columbia from 1934 to 1954.

Edwin Armstrong
Not many more perhaps, even of those millions with FM receivers in their homes or cars around the world, think of each set as enduring testimony to the brilliant discoveries of this towering figure in electronics. And not many at all of those who pass by Columbia’s Philosophy Hall, or The Thinker who ponders before it, would think of the Philosophy Hall basement—unlikely as it seems—as the original site of Armstrong’s experiments (except for those fledgling trials performed earlier in the attic of his Yonkers home). Here in “Living Legacies,” however, we recall both the triumphs and profound disappointments of this tragic figure in the annals of technology.

Telling the story for us is Yannis Tsividis, Charles Batchelor Professor of Electrical Engineering in Columbia’s Fu Foundation School of Engineering. Tsividis received his bachelor's degree from the University of Minnesota in 1972 and his Ph.D. from the University of California, Berkeley, in 1976. He has taught at Berkeley, MIT, and the National Technical University of Athens, Greece. For his distinguished scholarship and teaching he has won many awards, including the Great Teacher Award of the Society of Columbia Graduates in 1991. His latest book is Operation and Modeling of the MOS Transistor, 2nd ed. (McGraw-Hill, 1999).

Wm. Theodore de Bary ’41C ’53GSAS ’95HON
for the Living Legacies Series
of the 250th Anniversary Celebration

PHOTO CREDITS
Sansom: University Archives
Columbiana Library, Columbia University. Goodrich: Dept. of East Asian Languages and Cultures. Tsunoda and de Bary: C.V. Starr East Asian Library.