Throughout the academic year 2016-17, the Yale community will observe the 175th anniversary of the appointment of the first professor of Arabic and Sanskrit in the Americas with a series of exhibits, symposia, lectures, and musical events.
In 1841 the Yale Corporation appointed alumnus Edward Elbridge Salisbury (class of 1832) as professor of Arabic and Sanskrit languages and literature, the first such position in the Americas. He was also among the earliest members of the American Oriental Society (founded in 1842), and energetically supported both the organization and its journal. His many benefactions to Yale include two endowed chairs: the professorship in Sanskrit that was later named for him, and the Silliman Professorship in Chemistry. After resigning his professorship in 1856, Salisbury continued to contribute to his alma mater through his involvement in the Library Committee and the advisory board of the School of Fine Art. In 1870 he gave Yale College his entire “Oriental Library,” consisting of hundreds of rare and early printed books and manuscripts. This valuable legacy enabled Yale to establish its strong research collections in languages of the Near East and South Asia, and became the core of what is now the third-largest collection of Islamic manuscripts in the United States.
To mark this significant anniversary a series of events is planned, including lectures and symposia; community events such as a concert of Sufi music, mural painting and Arabic workshops; and an international loan exhibition of modern art from the Middle East. The events are being coordinated by the Council on Middle East Studies, the Chaplain’s Office, the departments of the History of Art and Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations, Yale University Library, Yale University Art Gallery, Babylonian Collection, the Institute for Sacred Music, and the South Asian Studies Council. These collaborations will actively involve Yale undergraduate and graduate students, and celebrate Yale’s diverse intellectual and cultural community.