Dr John Wee

Fellow Tembusu College National University of Singapore

John is a historian of early science, medicine, and mathematics, author of Knowledge and Rhetoric in Medical Commentary (2019), and editor of essays on Mesopotamian, Egyptian, and Greco-Roman medicine in The Comparable Body (2017). He served on the advisory board for the Encyclopedia of Ancient Greek and Roman Medicine project at the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg. John publishes on wide-ranging subjects, including historical commentaries on scientific and literary texts; the compartmentalization of knowledge in scribal curricula, canons, and professions; the Hippocratic writings; and the mapping of time, stars and planets, and the zodiac. Particularly through exemplars in medicine and astronomy, he explores our ways of seeing and knowing, the hermeneutics of scientific and philosophical language, as well as intersections among science, literature, and visual art.

John graduated from Yale University with a Ph.D. (distinction) in Near Eastern Languages & Civilizations and an M.A. in History (Classical Greece). He knows more than a dozen ancient and modern languages, and studied the original texts of the world’s earliest classics in literature and philosophy. He was a Samuel K. Bushnell Fellow and awarded the William J. Horwitz Prize at Yale, a Landesstiftung Baden-Württemberg Scholar at Heidelberg University, and a Provost’s Postdoctoral Fellow and then on faculty at the University of Chicago.  


Ignorance and Knowing
Happiness By Design
The Tembusu (Fagraea fragrans) is a large evergreen tree in the family Gentianaceae. It is native to Southeast Asia. Its trunk is dark brown, with deeply fissured bark, looking somewhat like a bittergourd. It grows in an irregular shape from 10 to 25m high. Its leaves are light green and oval in shape. Its yellowish flowers have a distinct fragrance and the fruits of the tree are bitter tasting red berries, which are eaten by birds and fruit bats.