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The Reception of Relativity in China

Danian Hu
Isis
Vol. 98, No. 3 (September 2007), pp. 539-557
DOI: 10.1086/521157
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1086/521157
Page Count: 19
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The Reception of Relativity in China
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Abstract

ABSTRACT Having introduced the theory of relativity from Japan, the Chinese quickly and enthusiastically embraced it during the May Fourth Movement, virtually without controversy. This unique passion for and openness to relativity, which helped advance the study of theoretical physics in China in the 1930s, was gradually replaced by imported Soviet criticism after 1949. During the Cultural Revolution, radical Chinese ideologues sponsored organized campaigns against Einstein and relativity, inflicting serious damage on Chinese science and scientific education. China’s economic reforms in the late 1970s empowered scientists and presented them with the opportunity to rehabilitate Einstein and call for social democracy. Einstein has since become the symbol in China of the unity of science and democracy, the two eminent objectives of the May Fourth Movement that remain to be achieved in full. Using the reception of relativity as a case study, the essay also discusses issues involving the historical study of modern Chinese science.

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