• Studies in the History of Natural Sciences NO.2 2010

Studies in the History of Natural Sciences  NO.2 2010 

Dai Zhen and Western Learning

XU Daobin

(Center for Hui Studies, Anhui University, Hefei 230039, China)

Abstract Dai Zhen was a leading scholar during the reigns of Emperor Qianlong and emperor Jiaqing in Qing Dynasty. Though he was an obscure Confucian intellectual in simple and unadorned apparel upon his arrival in the capital of Qing Dynasty from the Hui Prefecture, he became famous in a short time and was a person that people of high social ranks eagerly wanted to make acquaintance with. His academic viewpoint was quickly acknowledged and accepted. Why it was so is an unsolved puzzle in academic circles. According to the investagations into Western learning made by Mei Wending, Mei Juecheng, Jiang Yong and Dai Zhen, this paper shows the unique and refreshing way adopted by Dai Zhen to substitute “Western learning” with “Chinese learning” on the basis of his predecessors' research. Dai Zhen's academic viewpoints timely conformed to the cultural mentality of Qing imperial government during the eastward spreading of Western culture, which ensured the quick establishment of his academic status, and also revealed the difficulties of traditional scholar-officials in achieving a balance between learning and politics.

Key words Chinese origin of Western learning, Dai Zhen, academic characteristics, establishment of status

Mei Wending's “Apparent Orbit on the Sun” Theory of Planetary Motions

WANG Guangchao, SUN Xiaochun

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

Abstract To resolve the contradictions between cosmology and computation in the previous planetary theory,Mei Wending devised a new system according to which the five planets are fixed to their annual circles(Suilun岁轮) whose centers are situated on planetary deferent (Bentian, 本天) while they revolve figuratively on the circle centered on the Sun. Providing a set of solutions for cosmological and computational problems, this theory was widely appreciated among Mei's successors and was even adopted in the Imperial Compendium of Observational and Computational Astronomy (Lixiang Kaocheng, 历象考成). But Mei's descriptions remained on the technical level and did not touch the physical reality of planetary motions. Although mid-Qing literati using mathematical astronomy for the purpose of evidential studies proposed that “the reasons why” (Suoyiran, 所以然) celestial bodies moved in the manner observed could not be known, they still believed in Mei's authority on planetary theory. After the Newtonian gravitational theory was introduced into China during the late Qing, some literati still believed that Mei's theory of the planetary motions was true.

Key words Mei Wending, “Apparent Orbit on the Sun” Theory, cosmology and computation

Verification of the Original English Text of the Zhongxue

NIE Fuling

(Institute for the History of Science and Technology,

Inner Mongolia Normal University, Huhhot, 010022, China)

Abstract Zhongxue is a Chinese translation of W. Whewell's An Elementary Treatise on Mechanics, which was translated by Joseph Edkins and Li Shanlan and published in 1859. There are seven editions of Whewell's treatise. That Zhongxue is translated from which of the editions is still an unresolved issue. Based on a comparison of the Zhongxue with different editions of An Elementary Treatise on Mechanics, this paper comes to conclusion that the Zhongxue was translated from the fifth edition published in 1836. The paper also analyzes the differences between Zhongxue and its original texts, and corrects some popular inaccurate statements.

Key words Zhongxue, Mechanics, versions, original versions, editions

From Power to Energy Resources: the Rise of Research on Energy Resources in Chinese Academy of Science

ZHANG Jiuchen

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

Abstract Energy resources are the most basic driving force for the growth of world economy and the foundation for the existence of mankind. Knowledge of Chinese scientists for a synthetical study of energy resources had gone through several stages: from power research in 1950s, to kinetic energy research in 1960, and to energy resources research after 1970s. This paper analyses the complicated course of development of sturdy of energy resources in the Chinese Academy of Science after 1980s, which reflected the influence of China's policy of serving national economic construction through science.

Key words power, kinetic energy, energy resources

Bai Meichu's Ideas on Geography Expressed in his Geographical Philosophy

MA Li,

(School of Public Policy and Management of Tsinghua University, Beijing 100084, China)

FANG Xiuqi

(School of Geography of Beijing Normal University, Beijing 100875, China)

Abstract Bai Meichu was a famous geographer in China. Geographical Philosophy published in 1923 was one of his representative works. In this book, he claimed that geography belongs to natural science which could be applied to the field of humanities and social sciences. In his view, geography is characterized by being macroscopical, changeable from time to time and from place to place, and temporarily effective for a given period of time and having a strong educational function. He advocated doing geography studies from the perspective of man-environment relationship. Many of the ideas in Geographical Philosophy have strong practical significance.

Key words Bai Meichu, Geographic Philosophy, history of geographical thoughts

On Autonomy of the Royal Society of London As a Corporation in 17th Century

YAO Yuan

(College of History and Culture, Tianjin Normal University, Tianjin 300387, China)

Abstract As the first scientific corporation of England in early modern times, the Royal Society had its start along with the awakening of self-consciousness and the self-organized activity of London intellectual groups in 17th century, and then being chartered by the King, became a corporation. According to the charter, the Royal Society obtained the autonomy that could make the Society to contend with political and church power, and get strengthened gradually. To Study the external rights of the Royal Society will not only help us to understand more about the characteristics of modern English intellectual corporations, but also make it easier for us to get further understanding of the changes of relations between knowledge and power and between knowledge and society in 17th century.

Key words Royal Society, autonomy, corporation, England

Cardano's Special Rules for Cubic Equations

ZHAO Jiwei

(Centre for History of Mathematics and Sciences, Northwest University, Xi'an 710127, China)

Abstract Based on the analysis of Cardano's general rules for cubic equations and the propositions in the sixth chapter of Artis Magnae, Cardano's 17 special rules for cubic equations are reconstructed. Hence his mathematical ideas and methods behind these rules are revealed, and his vague indications on these special rules are clarified. It is pointed out that Cardano's synthetic statement of the rules does not quite accord with the procedure of the reconstructions of relative rules. Meanwhile, according to the discussion on the applicable cases of these special rules by means of taxonomic approach, Cardano's intention is argued as rather the special rules themselves than the methods on the irreducible cases of cubic equations.

Key words Cardano, Artis Magnae, cubic equation, special rule, irreducible case

Researches on History of Science and Technology in the Last Twenty Years in Taiwan: the Encounter and Mutual Impact Between Modern Civilizations of East and West

XU Kuang-Tai

(Center for General Education and Institute of History, Tsing Hua University, Hsinchu, Taiwan)

Abstract In the Science and Civilisation in China, Joseph Needham made some comparisons between western science and Chinese science without focusing on the encounter between them. In fact, the transmission of western learning by Jesuits missionaries brought about the encounter of two traditions of natural knowledge, and left lots of topics concerning the conflict, competition and comparison between them. In view of the encounter and mutual impact between modern civilizations of East and West, this paper aims to analyze several topics on history of science and technology in the last 20 years dealt with in Taiwan.

Key words the exchange between East and West,  the encounter and mutual impact between modern civilizations of East and West,  Taiwan,  history of science and technology.