Retired Harvard Professor Edwin O. Reischauer, a renowned East Asian scholar who served as U.S. ambassador to Japan from 1961 to 1966, died on Sept. 1 in La Jolla, California. He was 79.
Reischauer received a Ph.D. in Far Eastern Languages from Harvard in 1939 and is a former director of the Harvard-Yenching Institute. In 1973, Reischauer was named chair of Harvard's Committee for the Japan Institute, now known as the Edwin O. Reischauer Institute of Japanese Studies. He died of complications from hepatitis, a condition he contracted from a blood transfusion several years ago in Japan.
Harvard Professor John K. Fairbank, an expert on China Studies with whom Reischauer taught and wrote, commented on his colleague's abilities in a statement, "He was a person of very broad range: highly trained as a scholar who could handle Japanese, Chinese and European languages, yet he was a person with a common touch. He didn't carry scholarship around with him on his shoulder. He was honest and sincere.
"We never appreciate in this country the particular eminence that Ed had in Japan. He was the only one who really spoke and read and wrote Japanese. He was a great symbol of friendship and understanding," Fairbank said.
Reischauer's contributions to his field include his most recent books: The Japanese Today: Change and Community (1988) and My Life Between Japan and America: Memoirs (1986). He also wrote a history of Japan and two detailed studies of the T'ang Dynasty in China. He has authored several books on U.S. policy including Toward the Twenty-First Century: Education for a Changing World (1973); Beyond Vietnam: The United States and Asia (1967) and Wanted: An Asian Policy (1955).
A gifted scholar, Reischauer was also a popular teacher of graduate and undergraduate students.