Yale and China: A centuries-old partnership

Yale has the longest — and arguably, deepest — relationship with China of any university in the United States. And it all started with the work of one alumnus.

In 1835 Peter Parker (B.A. 1831, M.D. 1834), a Yale graduate, doctor, and ordained minister, initiated a series of “firsts” in China. In 1853 Parker became the first Protestant medical missionary to travel to China, and he went on to open China’s first Western-style hospital, the Ophthalmic Hospital; became the first doctor to introduce modern anesthesia to China; and even negotiated the first treaty between the United States and China, the Treaty of Wanghia. Parker also kept meticulous notes about daily life and medical treatments in 19th-century China; today, his papers and medical illustrations can be found in the Yale Medical Library’s collection.