Zuoyue Wang elected fellow for American Association for the Advancement of Sciences

Zuoyue Wang, a Cal Poly Pomona history professor, was elected a fellow for the American Association for the Advancement of Sciences (AAAS) in November 2019 for his research on the history of Chinese and Chinese American scientists’ political impact.

The AAAS seeks to promote the advancement of science and technology to benefit the world at large, according to its website. Wang’s recent research on the team of Chinese American scientists who worked to bring the U.S. and China together during Richard Nixon’s presidential administration earned him this distinction.

A press release from CPP issued Nov. 27 regarding Wang’s fellow election described the fellowship as “one of the highest professional honors for a scientist or historian of science and is an honor bestowed on members by their peers.”

Zuoyue Wang will continue his research with a study on Chinese scientists that returned to China after their education in America during the early 1950s. (Courtesy of Zuoyue Wang)

Wang published multiple articles on the history of American science policy before incorporating Chinese and Chinese American scientists into his research. His analysis lead to him to write his first book, “In Sputnik’s Shadow,” published in 2008, which discussed American science policy during the Cold War.

“Initially, I was reluctant to research the history of science in China because I felt … since I was personally connected to the topic, maybe I was not independent enough,” Wang said. “But then, as I gained more experience with the history of American science, I felt I was mature enough to tackle … (the) history of modern science in China.”

The first research paper Wang published was about the trip Nixon made to Beijing that bridged the two countries together after years of silence. This paper lead to his research on the team of “Chinese American scientists who were the leading players in bringing these countries together,” Wang said.

Wang originally began his education studying physics at Henan Normal University in China. He went on to earn his master of science in the history of physics in Beijing before attending the University of California, Santa Barbara to attain his doctorate in history. 

Wang was selected by the history of philosophy of science section of AAAS for his work. He was one of four fellows selected for the section this year, as shown in the AAAS directory of fellows.

Moving forward, Wang currently has a research project in progress that tracks about 1,300 Chinese scientists that returned to China after five years of living in the U.S. between 1949 and 1954. Funding for this project came from a $200,000 grant from the National Science Foundation.

Wang’s research does more than analyze the scientific relationship between China and the U.S.; it also analyzes the political issues that arise when the relationship between the two turns sour.

“In times of tension between (the) U.S. and China, often Chinese Americans, even Asian Americans in general, are negatively impacted,” Wang said. “They’re looked on with suspicion … it’s really important for everybody to keep in mind the American principle of justice … and equal protection.”

Wang returned this semester from a sabbatical that allowed him to give a series of lectures on these topics in Beijing.

Wang’s book, “In Sputnik’s Shadow,” is available to borrow in the CPP library.

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