Nathan Sivin (born 11 May 1931), also known as Xiwen (Chinese: 席文), is an American sinologist, historian, essayist, and writer. He is currently professor emeritus at the University of Pennsylvania. He resides in Philadelphia with his wife, the artist Carole Sivin.
The major areas of study and focus in Nathan Sivin's career and written publications have been in the history of science and technology in China, Traditional Chinese medicine, Chinese philosophy, and Chinese religious beliefs. He speaks four different foreign languages and has traveled abroad to many countries, on four continents, numerous times since the 1960s. In his written works he has also collaborated with many other prominent scholars, such as G.E.R. Lloyd, A.C. Graham and Joseph Needham.
Education and career
From 1954 until 1956, Sivin was enrolled in an 18-month language program for Chinese at the U.S. Army Language School. He then went on to receive his Bachelor of Science degree in humanities with a chemistry minor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1958. He received his A.M. in the history of science at Harvard University in 1960, and his Ph.D. in the history of science at Harvard University in 1966. He received an honorary M.A. at the University of Pennsylvania.
In 1966, at MIT, Nathan Sivin served as an assistant professor of humanities, associate professor in 1969, and professor from 1972 until 1977, where he then moved to the University of Pennsylvania as a professor of Chinese culture and history of science.
Nathan Sivin has studied abroad on many occasions. From October 1961 to August 1962 he studied Chinese language and philosophy at Taipei in Taiwan. From August 1962 to March 1963 he studied the history of Chinese alchemy in Singapore and provided guest lectures there. From the 1960s until the 1980s he was an avid visitor to Kyoto in Japan, where he acted as a visiting professor, studied at the Research Institute of Humanistic Studies, and studied Chinese astronomy, alchemy, and medicine. From 1974 to 2000 he made numerous trips to Cambridge in order to study Chinese astronomy, visiting Gonville and Caius College, the Needham Research Institute, and St. John's College in the process. From the late 1970s until the late 1990s he traveled several times to the People's Republic of China. In September 1979 he lectured in seminars at the École Pratique des Hautes Etudes of Paris, France, and at the Sinologisches Seminar at the University of Würzburg in Germany in 1981. Nathan Sivin also speaks several foreign languages, including Mandarin, Japanese, German, and French.
Along with various responsibilities at the University of Pennsylvania, throughout his career Nathan Sivin was also an elective member of numerous societies and committees. This included the American Society for the Study of Religion, the Philomathean Society, the Académie Internationale d'Histoire des Sciences, the T'ang Studies Society, and many others.
Along with numerous book publications since the 1960s, Nathan Sivin also wrote many more essays from the 1960s onwards. He has also given over 200 lectures throughout Europe, Asia, Australia, and North America. He is currently working on several projects, including a biography on the Song Dynasty polymath scientist Shen Kuo and a translation into English of a Yuan Dynasty calendrical treatise published in 1279 AD, the Season-Granting (a hallmark of Chinese mathematical astronomy).
- 1968. Chinese Alchemy: Preliminary Studies. Harvard Monographs in the History of Science, 1. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Chinese translation, Taipei: National Translation Bureau, 1973.
- 1969. Cosmos and Computation in Early Chinese Mathematical Astronomy. Leiden: E. J. Brill. Separate book version of 1969 essay (see below).
- 1973. Chinese Science: Explorations of an Ancient Tradition. MIT East Asian Science Series, 2. Edited by Shigeru Nakayama & N.S. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. Includes an introduction and three articles by N.S., listed below.
- 1977. Science and Technology in East Asia. Articles from Isis, 1913–1975. Selected and edited by N.S. New York: Science History Publications. Includes an introduction and an article by N.S., listed below.
- 1979. Astronomy in Contemporary China. A Trip Report of the American Astronomy Delegation. By ten members of the Delegation. CSCPRC Reports, 7. Washington, DC: National Academy of Sciences. Includes several contributions by N.S., including a chapter on the history of astronomy.
- 1980. Science and Civilisation in China. Vol. 5, Part 4. Chemical Discovery. By Joseph Needham, Lu Gwei-djen, Ho Ping-yu, & N.S. Cambridge, England: At the University Press. Includes a section by N.S. on the theoretical background of laboratory alchemy.
- 1984. Chūgoku no Kopernikusu (Copernicus in China), trans. Nakayama Shigeru & Ushiyama Teruyo 牛山輝代. Selected essays by N.S., 1. Tokyo: Shisakusha.
- 1985. Chūgoku no renkinjutsu to ijutsu (Chinese alchemy and medicine), trans. Nakayama & Ushiyama. Idem, 2.
- 1987. Traditional Medicine in Contemporary China. A Partial Translation of Revised Outline of Chinese Medicine (1972) with an Introductory Study on Change in Present-day and Early Medicine. Science, Medicine and Technology in East Asia, 2. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan, Center for Chinese Studies.
- 1988. Contemporary Atlas of China. Boston: Houghton Mifflin. Consulting Editor. German translation: Bildatlas China. München: Südwest, 1989.
- 1989. Science and Medicine in Twentieth-Century China: Research and Education, ed. John Z. Bowers, William J. Hess, & N.S. Science, Medicine, and Technology in East Asia, 3. Ann Arbor: Center for Chinese Studies, University of Michigan.
- 1995. Science in Ancient China. Researches and Reflections. Variorum Collected Studies Series. Aldershot, Hants: Variorum.
- 1995. Medicine, Philosophy and Religion in Ancient China. Researches and Reflections. Variorum Collected Studies Series. Idem.
- 1996. History of Humanity. Scientific and Cultural Development. Vol. III. From the Seventh Century BC to the Seventh Century AD, ed. J. Herrmann & E. Zürcher. Paris: UNESCO. Integrated contributions on science, medicine, and technology.
- 2000. Science and Civilisation in China. Vol. 6, pt. 6. Medicine. Edited and with an Introduction by N.S. Cambridge University Press.
- 2002. The Way and the Word. Science and Medicine in Early Greece and China (with Sir Geoffrey Lloyd). Yale University Press.
- Sivin, Nathan. 2005. “A Multi-dimensional Approach to Research on Ancient Science”. East Asian Science, Technology, and Medicine, no. 23. Temporary Publisher: 10–25. https://www.jstor.org/stable/43150669.
- 2008. Granting the Seasons: The Chinese Astronomical Reform of 1280, With a Study of Its Many Dimensions and A Translation of Its Records. Springer.
- List of Sinologists
- List of American authors
- List of historians
- History of China
- Technology of the Song Dynasty