1908: First Chinese Graduates

     In September 1904, a group of six Chinese students arrived at MIT, greeted with much press fanfare. The first Chinese government-sponsored students at MIT since the recall of the CEM, five of these young men – Chen Ting Tuan, Lee Tsan-chi, Lo Ting Yu, Tse Tsok Kai, and Wen Ching Yu – had been selected through a competitive examination by the educational board of Canton, while a sixth, Shen Ting Ching, a native of Fujian who had served as a translator, was selected through official recommended of the Viceroy. Tse Tsok Kai and Lo Ting Yu, both students at Queen's College in Hong Kong, qualified as Imperial Scholars, with Tse taking second place in the Imperial Students' Examination. [Stokes, 255] The six were part of a broader wave of students sent abroad by the Chinese government that had been growing since 1890 [Outlook 1908]. The students studied mining engineering, electrical engineering, civil engineering, sanitary engineering, and chemical engineering. According to an interview in the Boston Globe, the "dean at Tech" had a most favorable impression of the Chinese students:

 “You will find them, as we have, quiet, studious and perfect gentleman." [1]

Two of these students – Tse Tsok Kai and Wen Ching Yu – went on to become the first Chinese students awarded BS degrees from MIT: Tse in Mining Engineering (3.1) and Wen in Mining and Metallurgy Engineering (3.3).

Tse Tsok Kai (1887-?) was a native of Guangdong Province who studied at Queen's College in Hong Kong, where he was the top student in his year (dux). After graduating in 1903, he worked for a year as a teacher at the Sacred Heart College in Canton. One of the recipients of a special government scholarship to study science and engineering in the US, Tse arrived in the US aboard the Empress of India in July 1904. Entering MIT in October 1904, he studied Mining Engineering and Metallurgy (Course III), writing his thesis with Nelson S Hammond on "Chemical Equilibria of Lead Oxide With Reference to Carbon Monoxide and Carbon Dioxide." After receiving his BS degree in 1908, Tse went on to receive his MS in 1909 with a thesis entitled "Study of a Wifely Table," and joined the American Institute of Mining Engineers. Between 1909 and 1911, Tse worked as a mining engineer for the Vulture Mining Company. He returned to China in February 1911, shortly before the Republican Revolution of that October. Tse taught for a year at the College of Communications (Jiaotung) in Beijing, and also worked as an Inspector for the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry. From 1912 until 1915, he served as the Director of the Mining Bureau in Canton, following which he assumed a post as Assistant Manager of the Kwang Tung Electric Supply Company in Canton. With his knowledge of both American engineering and management practices, Tse was credited with turning around the operation of this early Chinese power plant, and he rose to the position of Director. Tse was a member of the Association of Chinese and American Engineers, and in 1923, was elected Vice President of the Canton Returned Students' Association.[2] Tse later entered finance and became the Director General of the Internal Revenue Administration.

Wen Ching Yu (1881-?), also a native of Guangdong, prepped at Tianjin (Peiyang Imperial College) before matriculating at MIT. Wen completed his BS in Course III in 1908, and went on to receive his MS from MIT in 1909. He then enrolled at Columbia University, where he received his PhD in 1911, the first Chinese alum to receive a doctoral degree.[3] Wen’s Master's thesis, written in 1909, investigated the "Heat of formation of some ferro-calcic singulo-silicate" and included a "Design of plant for smelting and converting a sulphide copper ore."[4] 

Shen Ting Ching, or Heenan Tinching Shen, received the BS in naval architecture in 1909. His thesis was "An Investigation of Steam Breakage through a Labyrinth Packing." (Course Catalogue of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology 1909 - 1910)


[1] SIX CHINAMEN NOW AT TECH. (1904, Oct 16). Boston Daily Globe (1872-1922) Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com.libproxy.mit.edu/docview/500244299?accountid=..., http://tech.mit.edu/archives/VOL_024/TECH_V024_S0000_P001.pdf, 

[2] Who's Who of American Returned Students (You Mei tongxue lu), Beijing: Tsinghua College, 1917, China Review, Volume 4, China Trade Bureau, Incorporated, 1923, MIT Chinese Students Directory: For the Past Fifty Years, 1931.

[3] MIT Chinese Students Directory: For the Past Fifty Years, 1931, 18. The first students to earn MIT doctorates were Chow Ming and Yeh Yu Liang in 1920.

[4] Wen, Ching Yu, 1881- , Heat of formation of some ferro-calcic singulo-silicates. 1909.