ABSTRACT:

Albert Einstein's unique high status in China made him an easy target of political attacks and maneuvers during the Cultural Revolution. The criticism began with a middle-school teacher's attack on general relativity and developed into organized campaigns after gaining support from two powerful, radical Party propagandists, Chen Boda and Yao Wenyuan. While Chen supported the criticism out of political ambition and cultural prejudice, Yao exploited it to attack his political rival Zhou Enlai and maintain absolute control of Chinese science by orthodox Marxist ideology. The criticism largely ended after both radical leaders fell from power, but not before it did serious damage to Chinese science and education. This article explores the rise, development, and consequences of the criticism, which first appeared in the Soviet Union and stemmed from ideological insistence on the dominance of dialectical materialism in all scientific studies. Marxist doctrines became the basis of scientific investigations and theoretical research in basic sciences nearly vanished in China. The article also describes the efforts of Chinese scientists at damage control and their occasional achievements against the critics' expectation.

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