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During the Ming Dynasty, not many scientists were working in China; most people who wanted to do science moved west to the big universities of Central Asia. But when Jesuit missionaries from Europe brought newly invented telescopes to China in 1615 AD, Chinese astronomers were just as excited about it as the Western astronomers had been. But the Jesuit missionaries, under the control of the Catholic Church, didn’t tell Chinese astronomers about the work of Galileo. Instead, they insisted that the sun and the planets went around the Earth.

Gradually Chinese astronomers started to figure out what European astronomers like Kepler were really saying. But the idea that the earth went around the sun didn’t really get widespread acceptance among Chinese astronomers until Protestant missionaries arrived from England in the early 1800s.

By that time, other Western technologies were also coming to China. People in China learned how to make and use guns and cannon. China learned how to make tons of high quality steel. Chinese engineers started to build railroads, and modern ships.

The Revolution, and then the two World Wars, distracted people from science for the first half of the 1900s. But after the wars, the government of China under Mao Zedong poured money into scientific research.  Chinese scientists developed nuclear weapons, launched satellites into space, built new high-speed trains, and recently sent people in rockets into space. Chinese doctors developed artificial insulin for diabetics. They created artemisin, the best known medicine for malaria, and a blood test for Down’s Syndrome. They developed maglev wind generators, which are more efficient. Today China is one of the world’s leaders in science.

Modern steel in China

More about malaria

Bibliography and further reading about Chinese science:

Ancient China
More about China home