Thematic Approaches to the Study of Science Drift 25, Rm. 301 Contributed Papers
25 Jul 2019 04:00 PM - 06:00 PM(Europe/Amsterdam)
20190725T1600 20190725T1800 Europe/Amsterdam Transmitting Knowledge in Chinese and Arabic Contexts Drift 25, Rm. 301 History of Science Society 2019
Commentary as an Epistemic Genre: Making and Transmitting Knowledge in 15th ca. Islamic AstronomyView Abstract
Contributed Paper 04:00 PM - 04:30 PM (Europe/Amsterdam) 2019/07/25 14:00:00 UTC - 2019/07/25 14:30:00 UTC
Ulugh Beg’s 15th c. Samarqand observatory and associated madrasa is one of the most famous Islamic scientific institutions, producing astronomical observations that were not equalled until Tycho Brahe. Less is known, however, about the process of research and education at Samarqand, but a number of commentaries produced by Samarqand scholars shed light on the intellectual life of the classroom and the role of patronage in scholars’ careers. In this paper, I explore the ways in which such commentaries reflect a critical engagement with problems in theoretical astronomy as well as the educational practices of Ulugh Beg’s madrasa. I argue that commentaries functioned as a means of making as well as transmitting astronomical knowledge, highlighting how commentaries served to fulfill both research and teaching goals within the context of an Islamic educational institution. I draw examples from the works of three scholars: Qadizade al-Rumi, observatory director and Ulugh Beg's personal tutor, who wrote a commentary on the Almagest and whose commentary on a popular elementary astronomy treatise became a widely-used intermediate textbook in Ottoman madrasas; Qadizade's student Fathallah al-Shirwani, who wrote a supercommentary on Qadizade's textbook in addition to his own commentary on Nasir al-Din al-Tusi’s famous work of theoretical astronomy; and Ali Qushji, a close companion of Ulugh Beg who later became head of the Ayasofya madrasa in Istanbul under Sultan Mehmed II, and who wrote commentaries on cutting-edge theoretical astronomy and philosophical theology in addition to his own works on mathematics.
Presenters Scott Trigg
Society Of Fellows In The Humanities, University Of Hong Kong
From Scientific Understanding to Ideological Fantasy: Chinese Image of Arabic Astronomy in the 16th to 17th CenturiesView Abstract
Contributed Paper 04:30 PM - 05:00 PM (Europe/Amsterdam) 2019/07/25 14:30:00 UTC - 2019/07/25 15:00:00 UTC
During the Hongwu Reign (1368-1398) of the Ming Dynasty, a set of Zij was translated into Chinese under the Chinese title Huihui lifa (Chinese-Islamic System of Calendrical Astronomy). This paper will try to show how the Zij was looked upon and understood by Chinese astronomers thereafter. In view that the Zij contained some astronomical techniques that Chinese astronomy did not cover, Chinese astronomers kept a high opinion on Islamic astronomy at first. When the Datong li was found inaccurate, some of them even attempted to understand the scientific principles of the Zij in order to seek the inspiration for a calendar reform. With very little knowledge about the underlying astronomical theories of the Zij, however, their explanations and discussions of the Zij are full of misunderstandings and mistakes. A systematic introduction of European astronomy into China in the 1630s to 1640s brought about a correct understanding of the scientific principles of the Zij, but due to the lack of the knowledge about the cultural background for its development, an earlier imagination about its origin was activated and evolved into a cultural fantasy concerning the origin and dissemination of Indian, Islamic and European astronomy and religions.
Yunli SHI
Department Of The History Of Science And Scientific Archaeology, University Of Science And Technology Of China
A Science without Nature in China: Heaven (Tian), Morality, and Darwinian Competition from 1890 to 1923View Abstract
Contributed Paper 05:00 PM - 05:30 PM (Europe/Amsterdam) 2019/07/25 15:00:00 UTC - 2019/07/25 15:30:00 UTC
An intriguing, but little noticed, puzzle exists in the historiography of science in modern China: While Tianyanlun (On Heavenly Evolution), the Chinese translation of Thomas Huxley’s Evolution and Ethics, is widely celebrated as THE most influential book in modern Chinese intellectual history, it received little credit in the history of science. Taking this puzzle as a clue, this paper argues that the publication of Tianyanlun by Yan Fu in 1898 was a watershed event since it popularized a distinctively novel vision of Western science. As indicated by the Chinese title, Tianyanlun addressed the key concerns of Chinese literati, showing that the Chinese have failed to comprehend the “Way of Heaven (Tian),” namely, competition. In order to connect science with Tian, the “cosmic foundation of morality,” Yan Fu strategically downplayed the Western notion of “nature” throughout his book. When the May-4th intellectuals in the 1910s endeavored to replace Yan Fu’s “science without nature” with a more radical, modernist vision of science, they strove to “naturalize” the notion of Tian. Following their lead, historians thereafter have dismissed Tianyanlun as not truly a work of “natural” science but merely “social” Darwinism. By way of situating this foundational text/event in the context of science, this paper shows how the history of science can offer insightful and fresh perspectives on issues crucial to modern Chinese cultural and political history, such as the emergence of “the natural” and “the social” (as actors’ categories), the transformation of Tian, and the contentious relationship between science and morality.
Sean Hsiang-lin Lei
Institute Of Modern History, Academia Sinica, TAIWAN And Institute Of Science, Technology And Society, Yangming University.
Knowing the World's Past and Future: H. G. Wells's "The Outline of History" and Its Reception in Interwar ChinaView Abstract
Contributed Paper 05:30 PM - 06:00 PM (Europe/Amsterdam) 2019/07/25 15:30:00 UTC - 2019/07/25 16:00:00 UTC
"The Outline of History" (1920) by H. G. Wells is an ambitious title narrating the "whole story of man" from prehistory to the Great War. Wells adopted an unconventional approach comprising the natural world and human civilizations together. Before introducing the dawn of early civilizations, the book starts with what we regard as "popular science" today: the Earth in the Universe, the evolution of life, and human origins. Wells's approach reflects an evolutionary perspective of historiography in the early twentieth century, which regards human society and natural environment as a coherent entity governed by scientific laws and patterns. His political agenda also shaped the title's cosmopolitan theme, particularly in the proposals of global security and peace initiative. Well's unconventional treatment of history writing received mixed responses. "The Outline of History" was a phenomenon not only in the Anglosphere but also among Chinese intellectuals during the interwar period. Fu Ssu-nien (1896-1950) and Chen Yuan (1896-1970), who studied in London, assisted Wells in the writing of ancient China. Fu and Chen belonged to a group of liberal intellectuals advocating the New Culture Movement, which appealed for radical Westernization of Chinese society to achieve modernity. New Culture intellectuals regarded Wells's works as accessible inspirations for scientific thinking and social reform. Some Chinese pacifists and religious groups shared Wells's anti-war agenda and concerns for the abuse of scientific advances. My research shows how Wells's narrative of universal history influenced different Chinese readers' perceptions of science, progress and civilizations.
Presenters Hsiang-Fu Huang
University College London
Society of Fellows in the Humanities, University of Hong Kong
Department of the History of Science and Scientific Archaeology, University of Science and Technology of China
Institute of Modern History, Academia Sinica, TAIWAN and Institute of Science, Technology and Society, Yangming University.
University College London
Mrs. Sarah Lang
Centre for Information Modelling (ZIM) of Karl-Franzens-Universität Graz
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