MORRISON, ROBERT (1782–1834), the first Protestant missionary to China, was born of Scottish parents at Buller's Green, near Morpeth, on the 5th of January 1782. After receiving an elementary education in Newcastle, he was apprenticed to a last maker, but his spare hours were given to theology, and in 1803 he was received into the Independent Academy at Hoxton. In the following year he offered his services to the London Missionary Society, and after he had attended David Bogue’s college at Gosport and studied Chinese under a native teacher, he was appointed to Canton in 1807. After a year of much hardship he became translator to the East India Company’s factory there in 1809, and worked at a Chinese Grammar and a translation of the New Testament, both published in 1814. In 1817 he published A View of China for Philological Purposes, and his translation of the Old Testament (in which William Milne collaborated) was completed in the following year. His next enterprise was the establishment (1820) of an Anglo-Chinese college at Malacca for “the reciprocal cultivation of Chinese and European literature.” Here too were trained native Chinese evangelists who could proceed to the mainland and carry on Christian work with comparative immunity. In 1821 Morrisons’s Chinese Dictionary, in six 4to volumes, a monumental work, was published by the East India Company, at a cost of £12,000. Leaving China at the close of 1823, Morrison spent two years in England, where he was elected a fellow of the Royal Society. Returning to China in 1826, he set himself to promote education and tot prepare a Chinese commentary on the Bible and other Christian literature. He died at Canton on the 1st of August 1834. Morrison was admirably fitted for the pioneering work accomplished by his grammar and dictionary; and his establishment of a dispensary, manned by a native who had learned the main principles of European treatment, marks him out as the forerunner of modern medical missions.
His Memoirs, compiled by his widow, were published in 1839. See also R. Lovett, History of the London Missionary Society, vol. ii. ch. xix.; C. S. Horne, The Story of the L. M. S. ch. v.; Townsend, Robert Morrison (1888).