The Institute is justly proud of the splendid part which her graduates have played in the New China and is happy to be of service in the further training of the young men to whom will come the opportunity and responsibility to organize the resources of this great sister republic, especially in science, engineering and business administration.


In 1877, the first student from China matriculated at MIT, enrolling in the School for Mechanic Arts. By 1910, China sent more students to MIT than any other foreign country.[1] From these early beginnings, the Institute became one of the most popular destinations for Chinese overseas students, especially those who sought to contribute to their country’s modernization and industrialization through engineering, science, and commerce. As MIT student FT Yeh of Fujian declared in 1914:

"The future of China depends on the quality of the men who are receiving their education. These now come mostly to the United States, there being a thousand such students here, and the Institute is the favorite place for those desiring scientific training."

                                                                                                                                                                                               The Tech, March 26, 1914, 3

Between 1854 and 1953, a pivotal era in China's modernization, 734 Chinese students received degrees from MIT, the third highest number of any university in the US.[2] These pioneering students made great contributions to China's development, as well as to the global advancement of science and engineering, and furthermore helped promote American understanding of China and its people.

In 1931, the MIT Chinese Students’ Club, with support from President Karl Compton, published a directory of Chinese students, chronicling the history of their first half-century at the Institute. The publication of this booklet had two aims: to provide prospective Chinese students with a picture of student life at MIT; and to provide information about alumni in China, fostering "the Tech spirit in China" and consolidating a network of MIT-trained scientists and engineers as a vital resource for the country's national reconstruction.[3] This publication sought to foster "the Tech spirit in China" by providing prospective Chinese students with a picture of MIT student life, and by creating a database of Chinese alumni to consolidate a network of MIT-trained scientists and engineers as a resource for China’s national reconstruction. Taking the MIT Chinese Students Directory: For the Past Fifty Years as a launching point, this website (and upcoming exhibit) outlines the story of Chinese students at MIT between 1877 and 1930.



[1] As early as 1910, students from China comprised the majority of international students at MIT, with 27 registered students from China. Second-place Canada had 18. See the MIT President's Report for 1917.



[2] Columbia had 1,834 and the University of Michigan 1,300. Stacy Bieler. "Patriots" or "Traitors"?: A History of American-Educated Chinese Students. Armonk, New York, 2004, 387.

[3] Massachusetts Institute of Technology. MIT Chinese Students Directory: For the Past Fifty Years. Cambridge, Mass., Institute, 1931. Institute Archives - Reference Collection |  T171.M42b.C53 1931