From the South China Morning Post this week in: 1957 The University of Hong Kong was delighted to host as a guest speaker the world's 'most outstanding Chinese medical scientist', on whom it had conferred an honorary doctorate 41 years previously. Dr Wu Lien-teh was 'a well-known international plague expert' who had arrived in Hong Kong from Singapore on board the SS Chusan the previous day. The report said Dr Wu, who was born in Penang in 1880, now had a private medical practice in Ipoh, in Malaysia's state of Perak, where he 'advocated the use of cremation' as a means of disposing of the dead, and 'through his initiation, had aroused much interest in the construction of a crematorium'. Paying his first visit to Hong Kong in nine years, the 78-year-old addressed a capacity audience of students and professors on 'the most-significant aspect of his medical career - the 1910 Manchurian plague epidemic, which claimed 4,000 lives'. Dr Wu also brought along 'a set of treasures' for the university - 'a set of books including his work on plague, an oil portrait of two rats, a human skull and a glass bottle ... and some pathological specimens. The latter included the tumour of a cock'. Dr L.G. Kilborn, dean of the university's faculty of medicine, described these gifts as 'having extraordinary value and interest'. After his lecture, Dr Wu recalled how he, his wife and two sons were just about to have Christmas dinner in 1910, when he received an urgent telegram from the imperial government, summoning him to Peking and then to Manchuria, 'where plague had broken out, killing many people'. 'Fortunately, said Dr Wu, he had been waiting for such an opportunity,' the newspaper reported. Dr Wu proceeded to Harbin , 'with powerful Russian forces stationed there'. After a week's study, he established that the plague 'had nothing to do with ordinary rats'. Rather, as was established at a later medical conference, 'it was a special rat, a big rodent weighing [more than 4kg]. The Russians called it Tarabagan, and the scientific name for it was [Arctomys bobac, the steppe marmot]', which carried a ceratophylus flea. Dr Wu discovered that Harbin's plague had spread from man to man, rather than flea to man, and said he had contained the plague by keeping families separated from patients. More importantly, he had obtained permission from the imperial government to dispose of the victims by cremation. 'The ground was buried deep in snow and it was as hard as stone or a cement floor. And if the bodies were not disposed, it would be difficult to encourage the workers, nurses and labourers to work.' In those days cremation was 'surprising' but, after three days, the Qing court agreed. According to the report: 'Dr Wu said that autocratic government then was more useful than democratic government'. The next day parties were organised to collect the corpses. Bonfires were built, and after half the corpses had been burned, 'there was no difficulty keeping the fires going ... The corpses disappeared like magic ... and afterwards, burial was made easy as the ground had softened because of the bonfires'. Under the heading 'Theory of Universal Structure', it was reported that Morris J. Spivack, an American resident who gave his mailing address as the US consulate, 'had discovered the unifying principle for all physical phenomena which was unsuccessfully sought by the late Dr Albert Einstein'. Mr Spivack's statement was published in response to an article on May 6, in which Dr Tsung-dao Lee, professor of physics at Columbia University, had said the discovery of such a principle 'still seems quite remote'. The newspaper accepted Mr Spivack's claim that in 1954 he had published a four-page mimeograph, available at Columbia University's library under the title, Albert Einstein's Unfinished Theory of Universal Structure: Completed by Morris J. Spivack. However, 'the work is too technical for newspaper publication', the report added.