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Reading Darwin in Arabic, 1860-1950$
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Marwa Elshakry

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780226001302

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: May 2014

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226001449.001.0001

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The Gospel of Science

The Gospel of Science

(p.25) One The Gospel of Science
Reading Darwin in Arabic, 1860-1950

Marwa Elshakry

University of Chicago Press

This chapter looks at the role of American missionaries in nineteenth century Ottoman Syria and their promotion of modern science pedagogy and popularization on the path to salvation. Through the extensive use of mission archives and through close readings of the contemporary Arabic press, it examines the missionaries’ role in the founding of the Syrian Protestant College in Beirut in 1866 and the encouragement and exemplar they provided for two of their college tutors’, Ya‘qub Sarruf’s and Farris Nimr’s founding of the scientific and literary journal Al-Muqtataf in 1876. This would prove to be one of the most important organs for the popularization of the modern sciences in Arabic, and in particular for the dissemination and discussion of Darwin’s ideas. Despite the missionaries’ initial enthusiasm for this journal, a controversy over Darwin in 1882 (known as the “Lewis affair,” after the furor caused by college professor Edwin Lewis in publicly praising Darwin) turned them against their acolytes’ enterprise, and brought to the surface the ambiguities of the American evangelical promotion of science in the Syrian lands.

Keywords:   Evangelism, Missionaries, Conversion, Arabic Press, Education, Human descent, Creationism, Ottoman Syria, Beirut

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