Westman was born in Harnosand, in the north of Sweden, He was educated at the University of Uppsala, coming under the influence of professor (later archbishop) Nathan Soderblom and in 1915 gaining his doctorate with a dissertation on St Birgitta. He was much involved in the work of the Student Volunteer Movement and the World’s Student Christian Federation.
In 1914 he became Soderblom’s international secretary. Although professionally a medievalist, in 1923 he went to China to become principal of an embryo Swedish “university” (in reality no more than a high school) at Tao Hwa Lun, Hunan Province. The experiment was short-lived, mainly due to the chaotic politics of the time, and in 1930 Westman returned to Sweden as professor of mission history in Uppsala. Although immensely learned, Westman wrote relatively little, and then mainly in Swedish, which somewhat inhibited the recognition he deserved. In his career, personality, and style, he has been compared to the legendary Kenneth Scott Latourette of Yale. He retired in 1949.
This article is reprinted from Biographical Dictionary of Christian Missions, Macmillan Reference USA, copyright (c) 1998 Gerald H. Anderson, by permission of The Gale Group; Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., Grand Rapids, Michigan. All rights reserved.
Bengt Sundkler, “Knut B. Westman, 1881-1967,” Svensk Missionstidskrift 58 (1970): 45-76.