Sik Yau Foke


Sik Yau Foke (1863-1884), a native of Fujian Province, was the third son of a prominent Malayan Chinese family established in Singapore with a successful shipping business and at Xiamen, Fujian in foreign trading.[1] A member of the third detachment of the CEM, he sailed for the US at the tender age of twelve. Sik attended Holyoke High School, in Holyoke, Massachusetts, boarding with Miss Angelina Worswick, a supporter of the Chinese mission. In Holyoke, Sik was a popular student, making a name for himself in baseball, and becoming close friends with a girl named "Kate."[2] These two facts reveal how far Sik’s American life diverged from the Chinese norms of the time: neither playing athletic games nor forming friendships with members of the opposite sex would have been considered proper for a young scholar of his age in China. Sik matriculated at MIT in 1880, and lived at 370 Columbus Avenue in Boston with two other CEM classmates. After his recall to China, he was assigned to the Fuzhou Naval School.

Sik served as a midshipman on the Chinese flagship Yangwu, and was killed in action during the infamous "Battle of Pagoda Anchorage" at Mamoi (Mawei) on August 23, 1884, when French forces essentially destroyed the Fujian Fleet. Sik was one of three MIT men killed in this battle.[3]




[1] For more on Sik, see CEM Connections

[2] Letters to Kate are held in The Thomas La Fargue Collection (Washington State University Libraries).

[3] Class of '84 MIT: Twenty-fifth Anniversary Book, 1909, 92. Kwong Yung Chung, Sik Yau Foke and Yang Seu Nam. On the Yangwu, see Benjamin A. Elman. On Their Own Terms: Science in China, 1550-1900. Cambridge, Mass: Harvard Univ. Press, 2005.

Sources: MIT Chinese Students Directory: For the Past Fifty Years, 1931; Class of '84 MIT: Twenty-fifth Anniversary Book, 1909; the Technology Review; The Tech; the MIT Course Catalogue; MIT's Reports to the President; Who's Who of American Returned Students (You Mei tongxue lu), Beijing: Tsinghua College, 1917; CEM Connections; Thomas La Fargue, China's First Hundred. Pullman: State College of Washington, 1942; and The Thomas La Fargue Digital Collection (Washington State University Libraries).