A Cultural History of Modern Science in China by Benjamin A. Elman

By Benjamin A. Elman

Historians of technological know-how and Sinologists have lengthy wanted a unified narrative to explain the chinese language improvement of contemporary technological know-how, drugs, and expertise because 1600. They welcomed the looks in 2005 of Benjamin Elman's masterwork, on their lonesome phrases. Now Elman has retold the tale of the Jesuit influence on past due imperial China, circa 1600-1800, and the Protestant period in early sleek China from the 1840s to 1900 in a concise and available shape perfect for the school room. This coherent account of the emergence of recent technological know-how in China locations that emergence in old context for either common scholars of recent technological know-how and experts of China. (20070112)

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For example, both European and Chinese scientists had demonstrated that the prediction of eclipses required knowledge of the time and position of celestial bodies in space, which they had developed beyond the limits of traditional calculation. Another commonality Mei recognized had to do with geometry, which he regarded as the most systematic aspect of European studies and the root of its mathematics. Mei perceived geometry as an outgrowth of traditional mathematics—for example, he explained geometry by using traditional solutions for the sides of a right triangle.

By 1628, Li Zhizao had compiled the First Collection of Celestial Studies, which included Xu’s and Ricci’s Elements of Geometry. Li’s collection represented the last stage of Ptolemaic astronomy in THE JESUIT LEGACY 19 China. It would be replaced in the 1630s by the earth- and suncentered (geoheliocentric) system devised by Tycho Brahe (1546– 1601) at the end of the sixteenth century. 10 The Jesuits and their collaborators also translated many works of Aristotelian natural philosophy into classical Chinese.

Pope Gregory XIII (1502– 1585) had appointed the German Jesuit Christoph Clavius (1538– 1612), a leading mathematician and churchman, to the Gregorian reform commission. With the promulgation of the Gregorian calendar in 1582, the Church had ascertained the proper date for Easter. Astronomers such as Clavius were already aware of Copernicus’s (1473–1543) sun-centered (heliocentric) challenge to the earth-centered (geocentric) model of the solar system. 6 Clavius prepared a series of mathematical textbooks at the Roman College, beginning with his annotated edition of Euclid’s Ele- 18 A CULTURAL HISTORY OF MODERN SCIENCE IN CHINA ments of Geometry.

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