Building Biophysics in Mid-Century China: The University of Science and Technology of China
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Biophysics has been either an independent discipline or an element of another discipline in the United States, but it has always been recognized as a stand-alone discipline in the People’s Republic of China (PRC) since 1949. To inquire into this apparent divergence, this paper investigates the formational history of biophysics in China by examining the early institutional history of one of the best-known and prestigious science and technology universities in the PRC, the University of Science and Technology of China (USTC). By showing how the university and its biophysics program co-evolved with national priorities from the school’s founding in 1958 to the eve of the Cultural Revolution in 1966, the purpose of this paper is to assess the development of a scientific discipline in the context of national demands and institutional politics. Specific materials for analysis include the school’s admission policies, curricula, students’ dissertations, and research program. To further contextualize the institutional setting of Chinese biophysics, this paper begins with a general history of proto-biophysical institutions in China during the Nationalist-Communist transitional years. This paper could be of interest to historians wanting to know more about the origin of the biophysics profession in China, and in particular how research areas that constitute biophysics changed in tandem with socio-political contingencies.
KeywordsBiophysics History People’s Republic of China University of Science and Technology of China Rocket Mission Discipline
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