Translation of a discipline the fate of rankine's engineering science in early meiji-era Japan

Ruselle Meade

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    This paper examines the translation of the academic discipline of engineering from Britain to Japan in the early Meiji era (1868-1880). It argues that engineering, like other disciplines, is a discursive field shaped by the context in which it develops. British academic engineering was greatly influenced by W.J.M. Rankine, professor of engineering at the University of Glasgow, who delineated a discursive identity for the field by meeting the demands of both practising engineers and the academy. The resulting character of this discipline was but one of multiple possibilities, but it gained legitimacy, and ultimately orthodoxy. In Japan, there were a number of competing visions but Rankinian engineering eventually prevailed as it was granted privileged status by the Ministry of Public Works through the selection of Rankine's protégé, Henry Dyer, as head of the Imperial College of Engineering, and later by the Ministry of Education through its selection of Rankine's works for translation into Japanese. This paper demonstrates that the Rankinian vision was but one of multiple choices available in the early Meiji era. It also examines how Rankine's engineering science became entrenched as orthodoxy in Japan and how translation reflects this process. © St Jerome Publishing Manchester.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)211-231
    Number of pages20
    Issue number2
    Publication statusPublished - 2011


    • History of engineering
    • History of translation
    • Imperial college of engineering
    • Meiji-era Japan
    • W.J.M. Rankine


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