Scientific contact lies at the heart of research and that between China and the U.K. is an important example of how it can come about. In 1911, when the Biochemical Society began, U.K. science was developing fast with profound discoveries in physics (the Rutherford atomic model) and biochemistry (the discovery of vitamins). In China, however, there was great social and political instability and a revolution. Since then, the turbulence of two world wars and a variety of deep global political tensions meant that the contacts between China and U.K. did not reflect the prodigious growth of biochemistry. There was, however, one particular and remarkable contact, that made by Joseph Needham, an outstanding biochemist. He visited China between 1943 and 1946, contacting many Chinese universities that were severely dislocated by war. Showing remarkable diplomatic abilities, Needham managed to arrange delivery of research and teaching equipment. His activities helped the universities to carry out their functions under near-impossible conditions and reminded them that they had friends abroad. Most remarkably, Joseph Needham developed an extraordinary grasp of Chinese culture, science and history and he opened the West to the extent and importance of Chinese science. Formal scientific and intellectual contacts between the scientific academic bodies in China and U.K., notably the Chinese Academy of Science and the Royal Society, resumed after British recognition of the Chinese Communist government in 1950. The delegations included outstanding scientists in biochemistry and related disciplines. Research activities, such as that concerning influenza, were soon established, whereas institutions, such as the Royal Society and the Wellcome Trust, acted a little later to support research. The outcomes have been long-term collaborations in such areas as insulin structure and function. There are now numerous joint activities in biochemistry and biomedicine supported by the MRC (Medical Research Council), BBSRC (Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council), NERC (Natural Environment Research Council), EPSRC (Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council) and UKRC (UK Research Councils). The present contacts and the associated research are very considerable and growing. It is clear that biochemistry in both countries has much to offer each other, and there is every reason to believe that these contacts will continue to expand in the future.
Conference Article| September 21 2011
Biochemical contacts and collaborations between China and the U.K. since 1911
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Guy G. Dodson; Biochemical contacts and collaborations between China and the U.K. since 1911. Biochem Soc Trans 1 October 2011; 39 (5): 1313–1322. doi: https://doi.org/10.1042/BST0391313
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