The Life of Cornelius Van Dyck


Hayat Kurnilius Fan Dayk (The life of Cornelius Van Dyck) celebrates the life and achievements of American missionary, scientist, physician, and educator Cornelius Van Dyck (1818−1895). Born in Kinderhook, New York, Van Dyck received his degree from Jefferson Medical College in 1839 and left for the Near East the following year. His initial assignment was the intensive study of Arabic, the language of instruction at the Protestant schools. He also completed his study toward ordination and began work on the Bible translation that would be published some 20 years later. His mastery of Arabic was legendary and his writings had considerable influence on the development of an economical and precise prose style from the flowery poetics that preceded it. Van Dyck’s career was bound up with developments at the Syrian Protestant College, later the American University in Beirut, including its printing press, museum, and observatory, which he helped to finance from his private medical practice. In 1882 he resigned from the faculty in protest over the “Darwin issue,” which arose when Professor Edwin Lewis in his commencement address made what were interpreted as favorable references to Charles Darwin’s theories. This book offers an overview of Van Dyck’s career, followed by commemorative essays and poems by friends, students, and colleagues, many of which were read at Van Dyck’s golden jubilee in the Levant in 1890. The list of presenters includes some of the most prominent names in Arab culture of the 19th century. Illustrations include a photographic portrait as frontispiece, a bust in the garden of Saint George Orthodox Hospital where Van Dyck was chief physician, and a photograph of his gravestone. There is a ten-page annotated bibliography of his works.

Date Created

Subject Date

Publication Information

Al-‘Uthmaniyah Press, Ba’bda, Lebanon


Title in Original Language

حياة كرنيليوس فان ديك

Type of Item

Physical Description

178 pages ; 21 centimeters


  1. Stephen B.L., Penrose, Jr., That They May Have Life: The Story of the American University of Beirut, 1866−1941 (New York: American University of Beirut, 1941).

Last updated: September 18, 2014