Making Foreign Science Credible: Academic and Professional Formation at the Lyon Sino-French Institute, 1921–1951
Speaker: Mary Augusta Brazelton teaches in History and Philosophy of Science at the University of Cambridge, where she is also a fellow of Jesus College and Trustee of the Needham Research Institute.
Moderator: Victor Seow, Harvard University
Abstract: A unique joint enterprise of the French and Chinese Republics, the Lyon Sino-French Institute was established in 1921 to organise postgraduate education in science, technology, and medicine for select Chinese students. Until its closure in 1951, the young men and women that the Institute sponsored staked their futures on the fields of scientific knowledge that they saw as key to averting national economic and political disaster for China. Amid intellectual and political uncertainty, what assumptions and ideals shaped the choices of Chinese youths to study technical subjects abroad? And why did they choose to go to France? Examination of their French- and Chinese-language correspondence, publications, and theses provides an opportunity to learn what kinds of knowledge they valued, and why, amid radical epistemological uncertainty. Focusing on those students who chose to pursue medicine, this paper suggests that students at the Lyon Institute exerted considerable agency in shaping their courses of study, often to the consternation of academics, administrators, and diplomats; their choices suggest ambitions to develop relationships between professions and policymaking in the Republic of China.