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The Activities of the First Generation of the Physicists in Modern China

Yang Jian

The professional education of physics in China was realized by the efforts of the first generation of Chinese physicists who were all educated abroad. They developed the education of physics in three stages as follows:

1) During the reformation of Qing-dynasty in 1902 to 1911, the Government planned to start the professional education of physics as a part of modern educational system. But because of financial difficulties after the Boxer rebellion the government could not establish the department of physics at the Peking University: The physicists who returned to China after their training abroad had to teach at middle or high schools.

2) After The Revolution of 1911, the republic government started the professional education of physics at the Peking University. Then the physicists could find their posts in higher education and move there from secondary one. However, the education of physics there remained on a primary level; no contemporary subjects like atomic physics was taught and the students did not perform any experiment.

3) The professional education of physics grew substantially during 1919 to 1927 when the national-wide strong political power did not exist in China. One of the center of the education of physics in this period was the department of physics of the Peking University which was supported by a "New Culture Movement," a Chinese Enlightenment which was led by modern Chinese intellectuals. The other one was the Southeast University, the former Nanking Higher Normal School, which was supported by local private industries and the Chinese Science Society which was established by students who studied science and technology in the United States.

Historical studies on modernization of China have been paying a significant attention to the governmental programs. This way of study is typical of comparative study with Japanese modernization. But it is evident from the argument above that this view is not relevant in the case of the third stage of professional education of physics which was supported by the intellectuals and private entrepreneurs.

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