• Studies in the History of Natural Sciences NO.1 2007

Studies in the History of Natural Sciences NO.1 2007 


Exploring the Astronomical Meaning of Algorithm by Ancient Chinese Mathematical Astronomers

QU Anjing, YUAN Min,

(Department of Mathematics, Northwest University, Xi'an 710069,China)


(Department of Mathematics, Xianyang Normal College, Xianyang 712000,China)

Abstract In ancient Chinese mathematical astronomy, there were some complex algorithms which were not necessary in practice. All of these algorithms reflected that calendar-makers tried to improve the precision as high as possible, or to make sense of the algorithm which they constructed. This paper reconstructs the algorithm for calculating the longitude of the sun in the Song and Yuan periods and the method designed for calculating the lunar equation of centre in the Sui and Tang dynasties. Based on these two examples, the paper discusses ancient Chinese calendar-makers' spirit of exploring the astronomical meaning of algorithms.

Key words mathematical astronomy, meaning of algorithm, longitude, equation of centre, precision

Nationalism and East Asian Mathematical Historiography

XU Zelin

(School of Mathematical Science, Tianjin Normal University, Tianjin 300074, China)

Abstract This article analyzes the background for the emergence of nationalism and the historical origin of national historiography in East Asia, and discusses the research trend and influence of compiling the history of mathematics in a certain country subjected to national historiography. (1)From the national point of view, the independence and identity of a country are stressed. Therefore, the unique and concrete achievements of national mathematics are attached to with greater importance, and the integrity and homogeneity of mathematics in East Asia are often neglected. (2) Taking Western mathematics as a standard, the Whiggish tendency of historical research plays a vital role in defending the superiority of national scientific culture. (3) Attach importance to investigation of internal history, ignore the external history. In order to get rid of the above negative influence caused by national mathematical history, the article brings forward the viewpoint of integration of mathematics in East Asia, so that mathematics in East Asia can be looked upon as a constantly developing unity and surpassing nations, Mathematics in East Asia can be surveyed in the light of Confucian culture and even the culture of Chinese characters. So long as taking mathematics in China, Japan and Korea (including Vietnam) into account as a whole, the thought, spirit and knowledge system of mathematics in East Asia might be understood in an all-round way.

Key words nationalism, mathematics in East Asia, historiography of mathematics

A New Research on an Ancient Map of the Jiangjun Cliff Rock Paintings —Also on the Meaning of Celestial Phenomena of the Junshan Rock Paintings in Yueyang City

WANG Yumin

(Beijing Planetarium, Beijing Ancient Observatory,Beijing 100005,China)

Abstract Having carefully analyzed a great deal of reference and demonstrated in many ways, the author puts forward the idea that the sizes of celestial phenomena pattern of rock paintings were drawn or carved by people according to the model of celestial sphere with naked eyes, so we can conclude that the sizes of the suns in the rock paintings usually show some certain ranges of their diameters and the various center circularities show the different magnitude of the stars. The author therefore makes a conclusion on the magnitude that the circularities represent. Having used the “Scale System” and the method of calculating historical celestial phenomena and referenced the results of the former researchers, the author thus believes that the main part of Group B in Jiangjun Cliff Rock Paintings is a continuous record of “five-planet meeting” which appeared in 4435 B.C. The paper also guesses and discusses the Junshan Rock Paintings in Yueyang which has been found recently.

Key words rock paintings, scale system, same center circularities, five-planet meeting

China's Earliest Taoist Alchemistic Artifact: Initial Study on the Gold-Mercury Alloy Unearthed from No.2 Western Han Tomb in Shuangbaoshan, Mianyang, Sichuan Province

HE Zhiguo,

(School of Art, Jiangsu University, Zhenjiang 212013, China)

SUN Shuyun,

(Institute for the History of Metallurgy and Materials, Beijing Univercity of Science and Technology, Beijing 100083, China)

LIANG Honggang

(Chinese Institute of Cultural Relics, Beijing 100029, China)

Abstract A silver ointment-like metal was unearthed from No.2 Western Han tomb in Shuangbaoshan, Mianyang, Sichuan province in China. Upon inspection, it is found to be “gold amalgam” which contains liquid mercury and gold-mercury alloy. According to ancient Chinese documents, it is the earliest alchemistic material found so far in China. The jade clothes sewn with silver thread, wood Bi, painted figurine with nerve and vein, and pottery pills from the same tomb also serve as collateral evidence.

Key words Western Han dynasty, gold amalgam, alchemistic artifact

A Study on Waidan and Huangbai in the Book Miraculous Prescription of the Most Exalted Eight Sceneries, Four Pistils, Purple Thick Liquid and Five Beads for Birth

RONG Zhiyi

(Office for the History of Science and Technology, Institute of Physics and

Electronic Engineering, Guangxi Nationality University, Nanning 530006, China)

Abstract Up to now the academic world has not made any detailed discussion on the relationship between the book Miraculous Prescription of the Most Exalted Eight Sceneries, Four Pistils, Purple Thick Liquid and Five Beads for Birth and Waidan (laboratory alchemy) & Huangbai (gold and silver). Through textual research analysis, this article thinks the above-mentioned book was completed during the reign of Emperor Ai of the Jin Dynasty. Moreover, the book presents the embryonic form of the earliest gunpowder formula known at present. Not only that, it also for the first time obtained the crystal of free state simple substance arsenic in drug preparation, as well as “the mosaic gold”. It is also one of the prescriptions for preparing mercurous sulfate. And in geometric series and in magnifying glass application, the book also adds color to itself. Therefore, it has a vital significane in the history of the invention of gunpowder, the history of the refinement of simple substance arsenic and “the mosaic gold”, or in the history of mathematica and optics.

Key words Miraculous Prescription of the Most Exalted Eight Sceneries, Four Pistils, Purple Thick Liquid and Five Beads for Birth, embryonic form of the earliest gunpowder formula, the earliest system to result in the simple substance of arsenic

Aleni's Xingxue Cushu and Models of Introduction & Influence of Western Medicine in China

DONG Shaoxin

(Post Doctor of Fudan University,Shanghai 200433,China)

Abstract Aleni's Xingxue Cushu is a Chinese translation of Aristotle's De Anima, but their content is quite different from each other. In Xingxue Cushu, there are lots of medical knowledge of European Middle Ages, which do not exist in De Anima. Western medicine was introduced into China through Xingxue, which is an important model of Western science and technology spread into China, and in fact Western medicine introduced into China through Xingxue has more influences than that through those translations of Western anatomy. This article, through the case of Xingxue Cushu, discusses the models of the introduction of Western medicine into China and its influences, opening out the processes of Western medicine spreading into China through the Xingxue of Catholic Theology and its influences in China through the Xingxue of Lixue.

Key words Xingxue Cushu, late Ming & early Qing, Western medicine, model of introduction, model of influence

Translation Selections Conditioned by Historical-Cultural Context: Translation of Science Textbooks at the Beginning of 20th Century

FAN Xiangtao,

(College of Foreign Languages, NJU, Nanjing 210093;College of Foreign Languages, NUAA, Nanjing 210016,China)

FAN Xiangdong

(Graduate School of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100049,China)

Abstract During some ten years at the beginning of the 20th century, a large number of foreign textbooks for middle and primary schools were translated into Chinese for the purpose of “save the nation by science” and “save the nation by education”. These translated books exerted a great impact on the social culture of China. With the aid of statistical means, this paper makes a general description of such a translation phenomenon, including the historical-cultural context which affects and conditions translation selections, translating of textbooks and their criticism. Conclusions are reached that translated science textbooks influence both surface and deep structures of traditional Chinese culture, and that their criticism should be integrated into the macroscopic level of cultural factors for criticism to be relatively inclusive, scientific and objective to a higher degree.

Key words translation, science textbooks for middle and primary schools, history and culture, translation criticism, translation selection

Professor Li Di and the History of Science and Technology in China

GUO Shirong,

(Department for the History of Science, Inner Mongolia Normal University, Huhhot 010022,China)

FENG Lisheng

(Institute for the History of Science and Old Literature, Tsing-hua University, Beijing 100084

Department for the History of Science, Inner Mongolia Normal University, Huhhot 010022,China)

Abstract Professor Li Di (Oct. 6, 1927—Oct. 30, 2006) , a well-known historian of the history of science and technology, started his professional career with his study in the history of mathematics, and then developed his research fields to a much wider range of history of science and technology. His great contribution to the study of the history of mathematics, the history of astronomy and the history of scientific instruments in China is familiar to every scholar in the related research fields. He not only made great efforts to promote and organize the study in the history of science and technology of Chinese minorities, but also contributes a lot to the studies of other subjects in the history of science and technology, such as physics, geography, medicine, mechanics, meteorology, transformation exchange of scientific and technological knowledge, and general history of science and technology. Professor Li is well-known to the academic society for his polymath, not only being good at finding and locating new materials of science and technology from a variety of old literatures, but also formulating new viewpoints. He established a famous institute for the history of science at Inner Mongolia Normal University and trained a group of students some of whom became specialists in the history of science. This paper outlines Professor Li's contribution to the history of science and technology and introduces briefly his personal character, academic thoughts and research approaches.

Key words Li Di, biography, history of science and technology in China

New Inquiry and Simulation Experiment on “Making Ice in Summer”in Ancient China

LEI Zhihua

(School of Philosophy and Sociology, Xiangtan University, Xiangtan 411105, China)

ZHANG Gongyao

(School of Politics and Public Administration, Central South University, Changsha 410083, China)

Abstract Records of “ice-making in summer” have appeared many times in ancient books. It is an unsettled problem in the history of science and technology whether ice-making in summer is realized or, in other words, how to make it come true. This essay analyzes the method and procedure of ice-making recorded in Huai Nan Wan Bi Shu, and creatively proposes that the principle of “ice-making in summer” is refrigeration through the quick evaporation of water to absorb heat under low pressure, and that ice is made on the fine silk at the mouth of an urn, but not inside the urn at its bottom as it was conventionally thought. The essay points out three necessary conditions which should be fulfilled in order to realize “making ice in summer”: low relative humidity (less than 26%), large volume of the urn (about 100 L) and proper air temperature (about 20℃). The theoretical analysis is justified by qualitative simulation experiment.

Key words ice-making in summer, urn, steam, evaporation

A Possible Structure of Li Lan's Steelyard Clepsydra and Its Principle for the Stabilization of Average Flow Velocity

QIAN Xianyou

(Teaching Center of Basic Experiment, Univ. of S&T of Suzhou, Suzhou 215011,China)

Abstract The steelyard clepsydra, a special type of clepsydra, had been the chief time-keeping instrument during the Sui-Tang period and the earlier stage of the Northern Song dynasty. According to the record of ancient documents, this paper gives the possible structure of Li Lan's steelyard clepsydra, and demonstrates the principle for the stabilization of average flow velocity.

Key words Li Lan's steelyard clepsydra, siphon, structure, principle for the stabilization of average flow velocity

When Ambassador Guo Songtao Encountered Sherlock Holmes:A Review on Wu Yiyi's Hai Ke Shu Qi


(Institute for the History of Natural Science, CAS, Beijing 100010, China)

Abstract Through the experiences of several scholars who visited Victorian Britain, Wu Yiyi's book Hai Ke Shu Qi (The Oversea Tales from Witness) explores cultural clashes in the latter half of the 19th century between two intrinsically different empires, Qing-China of the East and Great Britain of the West;and reveals that the essences of Western superiority in science and technology lie more in institutional and conceptual aspects, and that “communication in such incommensurable fields of two completely independent civilizations” is an extremely complex process in history. While acknowledging the author's cultural perspectives, choice of material and references,as well as his writing style, this review also offers certain critical comments on some viewpoints and points out a few errors concerning the historical data Wu's book.

Key words Hai Ke Shu Qi (The Oversea Tales from Witness), Victorian science, intellectuals of the late Qing period