1812 -1884

The Howlands enjoyed the company of Mr. & Mrs. S.W. Williams while in Macao.

American linguist, author and missionary.

Official interpreter for Perry’s Expedition to Japan.

First US professor of Chinese language and literature.

Personal Life

Samuel Wells Williams was born in Utica, NY.

His family was involved in journalism and printing.

He married Sarah Simonds Walworth in 1845.

They had several children, all born after 1853.


Professional Life

Williams moved to China in 1833 to run a printing press for foreign missions.

In 1853 he was assigned to Perry’s expedition to Japan as an interpreter.

Although he was fluent in Mandarin Chinese, he had little experience with the Japanese language.

He also collected plant specimens for the expedition.

Williams kept a journal which is thought to be the best private published account of the expedition.

In 1877, he returned to the United States

where he became the first professor of Chinese language and literature at Yale University.


Samuel Wells Williams wrote an extensive 2 volume work on China in the year 1848.

Bayard Taylor lent it to Sarah to read on the journey from Macao to New York.

The Middle Kingdom

A Survey of the Geography, Government, Education, Social Life, Arts, Religion, etc.

of the Chinese Empire and its Inhabitants

What Did Sarah Learn from this Book?
What Did Sarah Think about this Book?

In 1889 his son wrote a book about his father’s life.

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