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This research forms part of a larger book project examining how the meanings and values ascribed to mathematics—as a universal, neutral discourse and as an idiom of reason and truth—came into being and about its cultural circulation between the 1920s and 1960s in American colleges and universities. Drawing on publications and sources from institutional archives such as the Rockefeller Archive Center, this project explores the relations and exchanges between mathematicians and scholars across the arts and humanities over what knowing mathematics entailed and what it meant to be modern.
At the Rockefeller Archive Center, I conducted archival research on the architectural history of Peking Union Medical College, a major enterprise of the Rockefeller Foundation (RF) and the China Medical Board (CMB), which was funded by the RF. The buildings of PUMC are still standing and are widely recognized as the precursor of attempts to adapt the best of Chinese architectural elements to modern Western science. This adaptation was first described and analyzed by Professor Jeff Cody who also visited the RAC in the early 1990s. It had been vehemently criticized by the first generation of Chinese architects in the 1930s and 1940s for overwhelming emphasis on the roof with little systematic research at the time, and was further dismissed as the bastion of American imperialism under Maoism. But undeniably, the buildings of PUMC have a distinct place in modern Chinese architectural history, and need to be well-analyzed based on exhaustive collection and careful reading of related archives.
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