From Liverpool to Beijing and Chongqing: William Band’s Adventure in Wartime China

  • Danian HuEmail author


Trained at University of Liverpool in both theoretical and experimental physics, William Band accepted in 1929 an appointment at Christian Yenching University in Beijing, China, where he established his career through the 1930s, heading the physics department and nurturing dozens of distinguished Chinese researchers in its MSc program. Despite the Japanese occupation of Beijing in summer 1937, Band continued his work at Yenching—an American property and an oasis of freedom for Chinese students in North China. In the wake of Pearl Harbor, Band joined a breathtaking and successful escape from Yenching, just before the Japanese raid reached the campus. He sought refuge in Communist guerrilla bases in North China, where he taught calculus, college physics, and radio theory to radio technicians of guerrilla forces. After trekking one thousand miles through Japanese occupied areas, escorted by Communist guerrillas, Band arrived first in Yan’an, the Chinese Communist headquarters, where he met and conversed with Mao Zedong and Zhou Enlai, and then in Chongqing, China’s wartime capital, where he served in the Sino-British Science Cooperation Office to help war-ridden Chinese scientists until his departure for Britain in December 1944. Band’s adventure provides a unique and useful lens to explore uncharted aspects of science in Republican China.


William Band University of Liverpool Yenching University modern physics in Republican China the War of Resistance against Japanese Aggression Sino-British Science Co-operation Office (SBSCO) Chinese Communists and wartime Western visitors Christian mission colleges in China 



It is a great pleasure for me to acknowledge various generous support and kind assistance I have received since I began to work on this project in 2006. First, I am indebted to Professor Dong Guangbi 董光璧 for recommending William Band to me as a potential research subject. I wish to thank Band’s former colleagues and friends, especially Professor Harold W. Dodgen and Mrs. Dodgen, Dr. Yi Sun 孙绮, Professors Jim Park, J. Thomas Dickinson, Edward E. Donaldson, and Stephen C. Langford, for spending their valuable time to share with me their knowledge and memories of late William Band. I wish to thank Li Xiaoli 李效黎 (Mrs. Lindsay) and her son Jim Lindsay for accepting my interview at her home in Beijing; I also thank her granddaughter Susan Lawrence very much for sending me many extremely valuable historical materials and for arranging the interview. I am profoundly grateful to the following archives and archivists whose generous support made this study possible: Cheryl Gunselman and her colleagues at Manuscripts, Archives & Special Collections of Washington State University (WSU) in Pullman, WA; Joan Duffy and her colleagues at Yale Divinity School Library (special collections); archival records of United Board for Christian Higher Education in Asia; Lee R. Hiltzik and his colleagues at Rockefeller Archive Center; Peking University Archives; and University of Liverpool Archives. I am much obliged to David Band, William Band’s nephew, and his wife Karin Band, for accepting my interviews at their home in the suburb of London and for making Band’s photo collections available to me. I am deeply grateful to John P. C. Moffett at Needham Research Institute and to Peter Rowland at University of Liverpool for their kind and generous help. I am extremely fortunate to have many friends and colleagues who have been the unfailing sources of help and I wish to thank especially Alan J. Rocke, Liu Xiwen 刘细文, Sun Lie 孙烈, Ji Qingyang 季庆阳, Tang Mingwei 唐明卫, Clayton A. Gearhart, Roberto Lalli, Eric Weitz, Craig Daigle, and Anne Kornhauser. As always, I deeply appreciate the generous support and careful editorial work of Joseph D. Martin, Richard Staley, and Robert P. Crease, the editors of the Physics in Perspective. It is my honor and pleasure to acknowledge indispensable financial supports for this project from PSC-CUNY, Mellon Fellowship at NRI, MPIWG-CNU partner group, as well as the PRC Outline History of Science and Technology Project.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of HistoryThe City College of New YorkNew YorkU.S.A.

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