12 May 2021 12:30pm - 2:00pm Online


The work in progress seminars offered an excellent forum for eliciting feedback on one’s work from a cross-disciplinary audience 
– Dr Christopher Meckstroth, Early Career Fellow 2018 – 2019

Part of the CRASSH Fellows Work-in-Progress Seminar Series. All welcome but please email fellowships@crassh.cam.ac.uk to book your place and to request readings. 

Dr Mary Augusta Brazelton

This paper considers the history of technical training for Chinese students as arranged by the Sino-French Institute in Lyon. A unique joint enterprise of the French and Chinese Republics, this school was established to provide tertiary education in science, technology, and medicine to select Chinese students. In the tumultuous decades between the Institute’s opening in 1921 and its closure in 1951, the students who enrolled there staked their futures on the fields of scientific knowledge that they saw as key to averting national economic and political disaster for China. The Institute became a laboratory for Chinese modernity in which students evaluated and selected disciplines on the basis of their utility for the nation, even as they sought to master the intricacies of engineering, medicine, and other technical fields.

The project from which this paper is drawn aims to suggest that the Institute’s students helped lay important foundations for the valorisation of science, or scientism, that later characterised the post-1949 People’s Republic of China. This paper uses the case studies of three Institute students who undertook training in aeronautical engineering, considering their motivations for pursuing their studies and their interactions with French administrators and educators who facilitated or impeded their aims. I suggest that, contrary to the claims that Institute representatives themselves made, these students’ efforts were motivated both by a patriotic desire to use their education to acquire technical knowledge that could support China’s national development and practical considerations of their own abilities and needs.


Dr Mary Augusta Brazelton is a Cambridge Early Career Fellow and will be at CRASSH in Easter Term 2021.

Dr Mary Augusta Brazelton is a University Lecturer in the Department of History and Philosophy of Science (from 2015), as well as a Research Fellow at the Needham Research Institute. Her book Mass Vaccination: Citizens' Bodies and State Power in Modern China examines the history of mass immunization in twentieth-century China. It suggests that the origins of the vaccination policies that eradicated smallpox and controlled other infectious diseases in the 1950s, providing an important basis for the emergence of Chinese health policy as a model for global health, can be traced to research and development in southwest China during the Second Sino-Japanese War. Her research interests lie broadly in historical intersections of science, technology, and medicine in China and around the world. Current projects include a collaborative exploration of the history of transportation technologies, with particular interests in transnational histories of civil aviation, and a study of the history of penicillin development in China. 

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