John Glasgow Kerr

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For the Scottish embryologist and Member of Parliament, see John Graham Kerr.

John Glasgow Kerr (1824 – 1901) was a physician and Presbyterian missionary to China with the American Presbyterian Mission.

Born in Duncansville, Ohio, Kerr graduated from Jefferson Medical College in Philadelphia. He went to China as a medical missionary and arrived in Canton in 1854. He soon took over the Ophthalmic Hospital in Canton run by Peter Parker, the Guangzhou Boji Hospital (The Canton Hospital). He was there for 47 years and treated almost 1 million patients. He performed 480,000 surgical operations including 1300 urinary calculus. In 1870 he trained 260 Chinese medicals. Sun Yat-sen was later a student at the hospital. Kerr pioneered mental health care in China. In 1898 he opened the Canton Refuge for the Insane, the first mental hospital in China, where he served until his death. In 1887 he was the first president of the Medical Missionary Association of China. He translated 34 volumes of Materia Medica into Chinese and authored other medical books.

One of his students in 1886 was Sun Yat-sen, who later became the first president of the Republic of China. Robert Elliott Speer, in the "Monthly Missionary Survey", wrote of him,

In 1890 he was a founding member of the Permanent Committee for the Promotion of Anti-Opium Societies. Fellow committee members were prominent missionaries BC Atterbury MD, American Presbyterian Mission in Peking, Archdeacon Arthur Evans Moule, Church Missionary Society in Shanghai, Henry Whitney MD, American Board of Commissioners for foreign Missions in Foochow, the Rev Samuel Clarke, China Inland Mission in Kweiyang; the Rev Arthur Gostick Shorrock, English Baptist Mission in Taiyuan and the Rev Griffith John, London Mission Society in Hankow.[1] They resolved to continue their opposition to the opium traffic, urging Christians in China to arouse public opinion against it. The desire of the missionaries that their ideas be carried out caused them to form “continuation committees” that were assigned tasks to assure that action would be taken on whatever matters had been approved by the conferences.

He was buried in the Protestant cemetery outside Canton, near three of his missionary colleagues, Dyer Ball, Henry V. Noyes, and Joseph C. Thomson.



  1. ^ Lodwick, Kathleen L. Crusaders Against Opium: Protestant Missionaries in China 1874-1917 (University Press of Kentucky) Online version at Google Books [ISBN 0813119243]

Further reading[edit]

  • Hudson Taylor & China’s Open Century Volume Five: Refiner’s Fire; Alfred James Broomhall; Hodder and Stoughton and Overseas Missionary Fellowship, 1984