• The Chinese Journal for the History of Science and technology NO.1 2011

The Chinese Journal for the History of Science and technology NO.1 2011

Scientific Disputes Surrounding Hevea Brasiliensis Cultivation in the Early People’s Republic of China
YAO Yu
(South China Normal University, Guangzhou, 510631, China)

Abstract  From the start of the Cold war in the late 1940s, as one part of the economic blockade against the socialist bloc, western countries tried hard to limit or ban the export of natural rubber, a fundamental strategic resource for modern economies, to the Soviet Union and its allies. The establishment of the People’s Republic of China brought hope to the Soviet leaders, since the sub-tropical lands of South China a climate and soil suitable for the cultivation of Hevea brasiliensis, the most important and productive rubber tree. The two socialist giants quickly joined hands. From the end of 1951 on, China sent hundreds of thousands of local farmers, soldiers and scientists to South China to expand cultivation, while the Soviet Union provided China with a loan amounting to 70 million rubles, along with heavy machinery and nearly a hundred specialists.
Leaders and cadres of both countries were full of confidence about the project, believing that, provided sufficient human and material resources were available and fully utilized, there should be no significant obstacles. However, they did not realize that the nurturing of Hevea brasiliensis was first and foremost a scientific activity rather than a political task. Even worse, both sides believed that the notorious Lysenkoism, a biology pseudoscience, could guarantee success!
Under these conditions, it is not surprising that Chinese scientists, mainly from the Chinese Academy of Sciences, found themselves marginalized in this enterprise, even though they wanted to fully contribute their expertise. They were not only excluded from the policy-making process in Beijing, but also disregarded by local cadres in South China. The advice of the Soviet experts was followed slavishly, but the results were disastrous, even though these experts worked hard and played a positive role in organizational management. The resulting problems erupted in early 1953, and this biggest of bilateral cooperative projects was suddenly cancelled in mid-1953, when the Sino-Soviet relationship had just entered its honeymoon period.
At this critical time, Chinese scientists proved that they had the capabilities to guide this project in the right direction. They provided many valuable suggestions that steered the rubber plantations in South China onto a healthier development trajectory. However, the subsequent years were not a golden age for these scientists. They still had to fight with the advocates of Lysenkoism and resist great pressure from impulsive political campaigns.
This case study illustrates the dominance of the Soviet’s theories in Chinese economic and scientific fields through the 1950s. However, the failure of this cooperation could not be blamed solely on the Soviets. The great achievements made by Chinese scientists after 1953 implies that failure could have been avoided if input from Chinese scientists had been taken into consideration. All this leads to the conclusion that, regarding the problem of how to balance politics and science, some deep-rooted problems existed within China itself.
Keywords  Hevea brasiliensis, China, Soviet Union


The Process of the Establishment of History of Science and Technology as a First Class Discipline in China
ZhAI Shuting
(University of Science and Technology of China, Department of the History of Science and Scientific Archaeology, Hefei, 230026, China)

Abstract   In this article the development and evolutionary process of the history of science and technology in China from 1980 to 1998 is concisely described. The establishment of history of science and technology as a first class discipline in “the catalogue of disciplines and specialties awarding doctor’s or master's degree and training graduate students” is then reviewed in detail, with an analysis of the reasons why the discipline of the history of science and technology in China was in the danger of being rescinded in 1997 and was finally classified as a branch of the natural sciences. Meanwhile the efforts made by the historians of science to establish the history of science and technology as a first class discipline are described.
Key words  China ,history of science and technology,a first class discipline


A Preliminary Inquiry into the Rise and Collapse of Traditional Chinese Needle-Making in its Social Context
WANG Bin
(Institute for the History of Natural Sciences, CAS, Beijing 100190, China, China)

Traditional Chinese needle-making has a long history. In the late Ming and early Qing, with the development of a commodity economy, traditional needle-making flourished in some centers of iron production. After the Opium Wars, a huge number of foreign mechanically-produced needles were imported into China, which had a great impact on traditional needle-making and led to its collapse. This paper outlines the development, flourishing, decline and transformation of traditional Chinese needle-making, makes a comparison to the development of needle-making in the West, and explores the social context of the rise and collapse of traditional Chinese needle-making.

The Development of the Research Methods of British Science in late 17th Century
LUO Xingbo
(Institute for the History of Natural Science, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100190, China)


Abstract  The history of science in Britain in the 17th century has attracted the attention of many researchers, for most of them believe that the first Scientific Revolution gave birth to modern science. Neo-Platonism, which revived in the 15th century in Europe, contributed to many achievements in natural philosophy by the 17th century, but had almost no impact on British researchers, who just followed the so-called “experimental philosophy” of Francis Bacon. Through analysis of the minutes of the Royal Society between 1660 and 1687, we have found that the research methods of British scientists changed from Bacon’s method to the mathematical method, which was praised highly by the Neo-Platonists. In the 1670s, the Fellows of the Royal Society realized that Bacon’s method was not the key to the universe, with the result that the mathematical method was introduced into their research. At the end of 1680s, many Fellows used this method very widely. The second half of the 17th century is the age of the transformation of the research methods of British science, the background of this transformation is the revival of Neo-Platonism, and the outcome is the establishment of the theory of gravity.

The Chinese Way in Science and the Oral History of Modern Science in China
Wang Yangzong
(Institute for the History of Natural Science, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100190, China)


Abstract  The author tries to analyses the Chinese way in contemporary China’s scientific development, and discusses briefly some problems in oral history in modern China, such as scientist and state, organizational culture, and archive studies and so on. 

Talking with Historians of Science and Technology, Learning from Erudite Scholars —Looking Back on Past Interviews in the Journal of Guangxi University for Nationalities (Natural Science)

WAN Fubin
(Guangxi University for Nationalities, Nanning, 530006, China)

Abstract  There have been 25 interviews with historians of science and technology in the Journal of Guangxi University for Nationalities (Natural Science) since 2004, accumulating an abundance of oral historical documents of Chinese history of science and technology. This paper introduces the launching and development of this series, and summarizes the experience of the interviews, which provide valuable experience for future interviewing work.

Tang Degang and Oral History of Science Works
HU Zonggang
(Institute of Botany, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100093, China)

Abstract  Tang Degang initiated oral history in Chinese, with many publications and a great reputation in the academic world. Based on his works and his own words, this article sketches out his methods for harnessing oral history and further explains how they can be used in oral history of science research.


Museums of Natural Science and Technology and Oral History
DUAN Lian
(Institute of the History, SASS, Shanghai 200235, China)

Abstract  Museums of natural science and technology are an important category of museum. As a method for collecting historical materials, oral history is closely related to the 4 major functions of museums, i.e. collection, display, education and research. Interviews can not only record history in an authentic, detailed and vivid way, but also promote research carried out by museums.

The Exploratory Process of the “China Brand” Crystals: An Interview with Academician Chen Chuangtian
Recorded and emended by Chen Chongping

(Department of the History of Science and Archaeometry,
University of Science and Technology of China, Hefei 230026, China)

Abstract  Nonlinear optical crystals BBO, LBO and KBBF were developed by Chinese scientists, and have been named "China Brand" crystals by foreign scholars. Being the main leader of the research, Academician Chen Chuangtian talks about how the anionic group theory came to be proposed, and how the nonlinear optical crystals such as BBO were developed.
Keywords  China, nonlinear optical crystal, exploratory process

The History of Qingdao Laboratory of Marine Animal Physiology
FAN Shihfang
(Former Shanghai Institute of Physiology, Academia Sinica, 320 Yue Yang Road, Shanghai 200013, China)
Abstract  This paper records the history of the Qingdao Laboratory of Marine Animal Physiology. It was set up in 1959 by the Institute of Physiology and the Institute of Marine Sciences of the Chinese Academy of Sciences in accordance with an agreement between the respective academies of sciences of China and the Soviet Union. The Soviet scientists worked on squid giant axon and the Chinese scientists worked on shrimp giant axon and muscle as well as mytilus muscle. The laboratory was active for two years until the break between the two countries in 1960.

Addendum to Research on Wong Fun, the First Chinese Medical Student in the West
ZHANG Daqing
(Center for History of Medicine, Peking University,Beijiing 100191, China)

Abstract:As the first Chinese medical student to study in the West, Wong Fun’s influence and contribution have attracted some interest from historians of medicine in China, though not a great deal. According to the archives on Wong Fun in Edinburgh University and other historical documents, the author traces his life and period of study at Edinburgh University Medical School, providing new material about his work and correcting some mistakes about his academic activities in previous studies.

A Review of Wagner’s Science and Civilisation in China
(Ferrous Metallurgy)

MEI Jianjun

(Institute of Historical Metallurgy and Materials, University of Science and Technology Beijing, Beijing 100083,China)



Abstract  In 2008,’s long-awaited treatise on the history of iron and steel technology in ancient China was published, which is the most recent contribution to Joseph Needham’s monumental Science and Civilisation in China (SCC) series. This article presents a review of this important publication in two parts: first, it introduces the structure and contents of the book; secondly, it provides a brief discussion of Wagner’s research and writing characteristics as shown in the book under review. It concludes that Wagner’s treatise is most certainly an impressive and worthy addition to the SCC series.

A Review of What Is Medicine? Western and Eastern Approaches to Healing
DONG Qiaosheng
(Peking University, Beijing 100871,China)

Abstract  Paul Unschuld is an authority on the history of Chinese medicine, on which he has written a series of important monographs. In his new publication What is Medicine?: Western and Eastern Approaches to Healing (2009), he proposes “a Social-Political Pattern” to explain the development of medicine in East and West. However, this pattern, which tries to find out the social and political impetus behind intellectual breakthroughs, displays a great limitation in actual practice.