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David Nivison, pioneer in field of Chinese philosophy, dies at 91


David Nivison, the Walter Y. Evans-Wentz Professor Emeritus in Oriental Philosophies, Religions and Ethics, died on October 16 at the age of 91.

Nivison demonstrated a strong interest in ancient Chinese thought early in his career. He served as a Japanese translator during World War II and studied Far Eastern languages at Harvard. He would go on to help establish the early chronology of Chinese history.

At Stanford, Nivison bridged disciplines, teaching variously in the departments of philosophy, East Asian Languages and Cultures and Religious Studies from 1948 to 1988. Under his leadership, Stanford became a leading center for the convergence of Western and Chinese philosophies.

During his tenure at Stanford, Nivison earned many distinctions, including a Fulbright Fellowship, a Guggenheim Fellowship and the Prix Stanislas Julien, for his book, “The Life and Thought of Chang Hsüeh-ch’eng (1738-1801).”

Nivison is survived by two daughters, Louise McCoy and Helen Nivison; two sons, David and James; six granddaughters, Joanna, Marina, Audrey, Camilla, Chelsea and Maya; and a great-grandson, Noah.

A memorial service at Stanford is being planned for January 2015.


Contact Victor Xu at vxu ‘at’

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Victor Xu '17 is an editor and graphics designer. An economics major, he hails from Carmel, IN. He is interested in international development and Kanye West. To contact Victor, email him at vxu ‘at’