Rebuilding Rubble: Digitally Modeling China’s First Biofuel Factory

Lunchtime Lectures
Wednesday, January 22, 2020
12:00 p.m.–1:00 p.m.
Science History Institute
315 Chestnut Street
Philadelphia, PA 19106
United States

Join us for a talk by Tristan Revells, Mistry Fellow at the Science History Institute.


Tristan Revells

Tristan Revells

Science History Institute/Jay Muhlin

While China’s economic rise over the past four decades is often associated with a heavy reliance on coal, the state’s investment in wind, solar, and hydroelectric plants makes its renewable energy industry the world’s largest by capacity. Revells’s doctoral dissertation historicizes the trend, tracing the Chinese state’s keen interest in alternative energy sources back to a mid-1930s biofuel program that supplied millions of gallons of fuel to Chinese and Allied forces when the Burma Road was cut. This talk shares Revells’s efforts to piece together the history of the program’s prototype, Shanghai’s China Alcohol Factory, which was bombed shortly after its construction, in the opening months of the Second Sino-Japanese War. In addition, Revells will suggest a few ways digital modeling techniques might help historians share their research with the public.

About the Speaker

Tristan Revells is completing his PhD in East Asian languages and cultures at Columbia University. Focused primarily on the study of science and technology in China, Vietnam, and Japan, his dissertation traces the history of renewable energy in China, specifically focusing on the biofuel industry. His most recent research collaboration combines history and digital technology to map medical and municipal facilities in Republican-era Shanghai.

About the Series

Lunchtime Lectures are a series of (mostly) weekly, informal talks on the history of chemistry or related subjects, including the history and social studies of science, technology, and medicine. Based on original research (sometimes still in progress), these talks are given by local scholars for an audience of the Institute staff and fellows and interested members of the public.