Sir Thomas Wade 威妥瑪
Diplomat and Sinologist
Born in London of Anglo-Irish parentage, Thomas Wade was educated at Harrow and Cambridge.
In 1838 Wade became a junior army officer and studied Italian and Greek while posted to the Ionian Islands. By 1845 he was in Canton and, after a spell as official Cantonese interpreter for the British representatives, became Vice Consul in Shanghai in 1852. He held various positions as a China specialist adviser to British ministers until himself appointed British Minister to China in 1871. He was knighted in 1875.
Wade returned home after 40 years in China. He was the first to write a textbook of the Chinese language in English and originated the Wade Giles romanisation system, still widely used. He wrote several books on Chinese affairs and donated 4,304 volumes of Chinese literature to Cambridge University. In 1888, he became the first Professor of Chinese at the University of Cambridge.
Sir Thomas Wade was married to Amelia Herschel, daughter of the astronomer John Herschel.