Exhibition Commemorates the Sesquicentennial of George Leslie Mackay’s Arrival in Taiwan

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Entrance to the exhibition on the second floor of the Gallery of National Taiwan University History.

150 years ago, a divine thread drew a Canadian missionary, George Leslie Mackay, across the ocean to Formosa, the island beautiful, blessed with God’s love. He landed in Tamsui on March 9, 1872, with an aim to spread Christianity, practice medicine, and promote education in Taiwan. In order to commemorate the sesquicentennial of George Leslie Mackay’s arrival in Taiwan, the Gallery of National Taiwan University History is holding an art exhibition in observance of “150th Anniversary of George Leslie Mackay’s Setting Foot in Taiwan: From Generation to Generation, from Taiwan to the World, Love that Transcends Time and Space,” from March 4 to August 31.

Mackay married a Taiwanese lady, Minnie Mackay, and their two daughters married Taiwanese men, planting roots in Taiwan. His grandson Seth Mackay Ko—the third generation MacKay in Taiwan—was in the first graduating class of the History Department at Taihoku Imperial University, in 1931. After World War II, Taihoku Imperial University was reorganized as National Taiwan University. William Leslie Ko, Seth Mackay Ko’s son, was admitted to the Department of Mechanical Engineering in 1946. These two alumni both witnessed the history of NTU.

Before passing away at 96, William Leslie Ko was a scientist, mathematician, inventor, and artist. Born in 1927, he witnessed the twists and turns of Taiwanese history across different eras. He was the first Taiwanese to receive a Ph.D. in aerospace engineering from “Caltech,” the California Institute of Technology. A legendary figure, he went from working as a train conductor in Taiwan to the longest-serving NASA scientist (1977-2018) and was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal.

The story of Mackay’s cross-generational contributions spans a variety of fields including medicine, education, missionary work, women’s education, human rights, equality, history, literature, and music—and has developed into a combination in line with the STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, the Arts, Mathematics) of today. The MacKay family’s history in Taiwan bears great educational value and is well worth reviewing, reflecting on, and reminiscing about.

Note: Dr. William Leslie Ko, a fourth generation MacKay in Taiwan, recently passed away on April 9, 2022, Taiwan time, just one month after observing the sesquicentennial of George Leslie Mackay’s arrival in Taiwan. This exhibition reflects the Mackay family’s profound love for Taiwan that transcends time and space, as well as Dr. Ko’s passion for this land and the NTU campus.

Seth Mackay Ko: Surviving through Interlaced Times.

Dr. William Leslie Ko: From Train Conductor to NASA Legend.