Zen Zuh Li (MIT '22), Kwe Pau Ting (MIT '23), Chung Wei Chen (University of Illinois, Urbana, '21) and Tsung-Be Tsang (MIT '23) aboard the SS Nanking in 1919, bound for the US. Photo courtesy Lillian M. Li.

Zen Zuh Li (MIT '22), Kwe Pau Ting (MIT '23), Chung Wei Chen (University of Illinois, Urbana, '21) and Tsung-Be Tsang (MIT '23) aboard the SS Nanking in 1919, bound for the US. Photo courtesy Lillian M. Li.

TO COMMEMORATE THE 140TH ANNIVERSARY OF CHINESE STUDENTS AT MIT

 
CHINA COMES TO "TECH": 1877-1931/麻省理工学院早期中国留学生: 1877-1931
 is ON DISPLAY AT MIT'S MAIHAUGEN GALLERY, FEBRUARY THROUGH NOVEMBER 2017. 

 

Se Chung Tyng (MIT Class of 1884), ca. 1872. 2--2-40. Thomas E. LaFargue Papers, 1873-1946, courtesy Manuscripts, Archives, and Special Collections (MASC), Washington State University Libraries.

Se Chung Tyng (MIT Class of 1884), ca. 1872. 2--2-40. Thomas E. LaFargue Papers, 1873-1946, courtesy Manuscripts, Archives, and Special Collections (MASC), Washington State University Libraries.

"The Institute is justly proud of the splendid part which her graduates have played in the New China and is happy to be of service in the further training of the young men to whom will come the opportunity and responsibility to organize the resources of this great sister republic, especially in science, engineering and business administration." 

KARL T. COMPTON, MIT President, 1930

 

In 1877, the first student from China matriculated at MIT. By 1910, China was sending more students to MIT than any other foreign country. From these beginnings, the Institute became one of the most popular destinations for Chinese overseas students, especially those seeking to contribute to their country’s modernization through engineering, science, and commerce. Between 1854 and 1954, a pivotal century in China's modernization, MIT awarded 734 degrees to Chinese students, the third highest number of any American university.

As MIT student FT Yeh (Class of 1914) declared:

The future of China depends on the quality of the men who are receiving their education. These now come mostly to the United States, there being a thousand such students here, and the Institute is the favorite place for those desiring scientific training. (The Tech, March 26, 1914, 3)

Harboring a dream of "saving China through science and technology," these trailblazing students made vital contributions to China's development – while also promoting American understanding of their homeland and its people. Chinese graduates of the Institute produced numerous inventions, from the world's first Chinese typewriter to the Model C training seaplane, and pioneered work in fields from microwave spectroscopy to nonlinear control theory. These students left behind a legacy of strong ties between China and “Tech” (MIT) that profoundly influenced the course of globalization. 

Many today stereotypically associate Asians with STEM -- but the early students had to fight skeptics who considered Chinese incapable of first-rate science and engineering. "CHINA COMES TO TECH: 1877-1931" -- an exhibit at the MIT Libraries' Maihaugen Gallery -- tells their story.

Fu Li Lee (MIT Class of 1927). Technology Review, vol 28, 193, Feb 1926. Courtesy MIT Archives and Special Collections.

Fu Li Lee (MIT Class of 1927). Technology Review, vol 28, 193, Feb 1926. Courtesy MIT Archives and Special Collections.

The exhibit, and this companion website, draw inspiration from a document held in the MIT Archives and Special Collections: the MIT Chinese Students Directory: For the Past Fifty Years was published in 1931 by the MIT Chinese Students’ Club, with support from President Karl Compton. Chronicling the history of their first half-century at the Institute, this booklet had two aims: to provide prospective Chinese students with a picture of student life at MIT; and to foster "the Tech spirit in China," compiling data on alumni to consolidate a network of MIT-trained engineers and scientists as a vital resource for China's national reconstruction. Hence, the story we tell focuses on the years 1877 to 1931. Following the Directory, "Chinese students" refers to students of ethnic Chinese heritage, some of whom were born in the US, Hawaii, Australia, or elsewhere.

 

1877至1931年間,有將近400位中國留學生來到麻省理工學院。這些留學生把習得的科學與技術新知帶回祖國,對於中國當時快速的現代化有關鍵性的影響,同時他們也扮演“文化大使”的重要角色,促進了美國對中國與中國人民的瞭解。早年從麻省理工學院畢業的歸國留學生有許多重要的發明,包括世界第一座中文打字機與C型訓練海行飛機。開創性的科學專研包括微波波譜學與非線性自動控制理論。早年的中國留學生為麻省理工學院和他們的祖國之間建立了深厚的關係,也加速了全球化的進程。

1877至1931年间,有将近400位中国留学生来到麻省理工学院。这些留学生把习得的科学与技术新知带回祖国,对于中国当时快速的现代化有关键性的影响,同时他们也扮演“文化大使”的重要角色,促进了美国对中国与中国人民的了解。早年从麻省理工学院毕业的归国留学生有许多重要的发明,包括世界第一座中文打字机与C型训练海行飞机。开创性的科学专研包括微波波谱学与非线性自动控制理论。早年的中国留学生为麻省理工学院和他们的祖国之间建立了深厚的关系,也加速了全球化的进程。

 

"中國留學生,最早是在晚清政府推動洋務自強運動的浪潮中來到美國的。隨著1909年清華留美預備學校的創建,中國學生迅速成為MIT人數最多的外國學生群體。這些學生大多數都是從中國各地通過考試被精心選撥出來的,他們抱著學習西方工業技術的理想,成為MIT的重要成員。他們在此不但學習新型科學知識,也成為早期中美文化教育交融的見證人。在這里列出的中國學生,學成之后,無論是返回中國服務,還是留在美國或去其他國家,絕大多數都服務于科技、教育、行政等領域,表現出卓越才能,在二十世紀人類科技迅速發展過程中曾經扮演了重要角色。這些MIT的中國學生,后來也成為促進中、美兩國科技與教育交流的重要力量,其精神值得后人銘記在心." (Feng Xiaocai, Professor, History Department, East China Normal University)

 

Please visit our exhibit at:

Maihaugen Gallery
MIT Libraries, Building 14N-130, 160 Memorial Drive, Cambridge

Open Monday-Friday, 10am to 4pm

 

This website is under construction and in draft format, please pardon the appearance, errors and omissions.