Modern physical sciences as an area of research and development came to Singapore (from the 1950s) and Malaysia (since the 1960s), through a postwar effort in establishing modern universities in both countries, and the accompanying physical science departments. The colonial-to-postcolonial development, coupled with the postwar and cold war agenda of the Euro-Atlantic nations and Japan, played a role in the transaction and circulation of physics knowledge into and around Southeast Asia during this period, and in informing the prerogatives and priorities of research in the physical sciences. Malaysia and Singapore benefited in terms of knowledge transfer, funding support, and resource allocation as a result of such developments. This presentation will consider how local and international developments in the world of politics, science diplomacy as enacted by the US and Japan, the construction of the postcolonial university and research programs, and ‘big science’ in the form of interdisciplinary nuclear research, came together to frame the development of the history of physics in these two countries between 1960 and 1990.
Dr. Clarissa Ai Ling Lee is a postdoctoral researcher at the Institute of Malaysian and International Studies at UKM. Her research interests lie in the area of comparative history of science and technology studies, critical theory, philosophy of science, and the social studies of science and technology.