LU Author Discusses Life of Missionary Doctor in Lawrence University Main Hall Forum

The life and work of Dr. Asahel Grant, among the first Americans to live in the Middle East, will be the focus of a Lawrence University Main Hall Forum.

Author Gordon Taylor, a 1965 Lawrence graduate, presents the slide-illustrated lecture “Dr. Grant and the Christian Tribes of Kurdistan, 1835-44” Wednesday, May 10 at 4:30 p.m. in Main Hall, Room 201. The event is free and open to the public.

Taylor will discuss the extraordinary life of Dr. Grant, his mountain milieu and the Kurds and Nestorian Christians among whom he labored. The presentation will include slides of period engravings, contemporary satellite images as well as Gordon’s own photographs of the area.

Grant, a country doctor from upstate New York, and his wife, Judith, set sail from Boston in 1835 to “heal the sick and save the world.” They wound up in Urmia, a town in northwest Iran, where they spent the next eight years among the Nestorian Christians who lived there and in the mountains of Hakkari, across the border in Turkish Kurdistan.

During his stay, Grant experienced a danger-filled life, traversing deserts and glaciers, tending the sick and breaking bread with thieves and murderers. On numerous occasions he narrowly escaped death from drowning, disease and assassination. Within five years he had lost his wife and two daughters to disease. When he died in 1844 at the age of 36, Grant had become a local legend among Muslims, Christians and Jews, who still spoke of him with reverence decades after his death. He is buried in the Iraqi city of Mosul.

Taylor, who earned a bachelor’s degree in history from Lawrence, taught English in Turkey following his graduation. His experiences in Hakkari, the remotest province of southeast Turkey, eventually lead him to write a book about the life of Dr. Grant. The result, “Fever and Thirst: A Missionary Doctor Amid the Christian Tribes of Kurdistan” was published last November.

In the course of conducting research for the book, Taylor discovered Grant’s great-great granddaughter, Phoebe Grant, is a 1977 Lawrence graduate.