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Translation of a discipline: The fate of Rankine's 'Engineering Science' in early Meiji-era Japan

Meade, Ruselle 2011. Translation of a discipline: The fate of Rankine's 'Engineering Science' in early Meiji-era Japan. The Translator 17 (2) , pp. 211-231. 10.1080/13556509.2011.10799487

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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.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: Modern Languages
Publisher: Taylor & Francis
ISSN: 1355-6509
Last Modified: 04 Jun 2017 08:22

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