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History of Mongolian Studies at Berkeley

UC Berkeley, the premier public university in the world and was the first in the United States to offer courses on East Asia, has a long tradition of Mongolian studies reaching back to the early part of the 20th century. An important part of UC Berkeley’s long engagement with East Asia, Mongolian studies began at our university when Ferdinand Lessing, a German scholar of Central Asia, was named the fourth Agassiz Professor in 1935. He established this country’s first course in Mongolian language, as well as courses on Mongolia’s Lamaistic tradition. He eventually published, in 1960 and at Berkeley, the first scholarly Mongolian-English dictionary, which is still in use today. Mongolian studies continued to advance under the direction of Professor James Bosson, who taught at Berkeley from 1964 through 1996, and who published critical works on Mongolian linguistics, including his 1964 textbook Modern Mongolian, still the standard text for English-language learners. In 2014, Professor Bosson was awarded the Polar Star Medal of Mongolia by the Mongolian government for his outstanding service to Mongolian studies.


Image source: USC Libraries. Yale Divinity Library Special Collections. Photographs from the Yale Divinity School Library, New Haven, Connecticut, ca.1880-1950.