China science

Chinese science world mourns loss of 12 pioneering researchers in matter of months

  • State media describes eminent researchers as having helped to build a ‘stronger nation’ with their work in various fields
PUBLISHED : Monday, 26 November, 2018, 6:18pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 27 November, 2018, 9:55am

Twelve of China’s most influential scientists have died over the past four months, state media has reported.

The researchers, who were described as having helped drive the country’s growth, were mostly born in wartime and had worked in fields ranging from high-speed rail to developing new materials used in the country’s space programme.

An article in Beijing Daily on Monday described them as the people who “built up a stronger nation”.

They included Wang Mengshu, a high-profile contributor to China’s high-speed rail network, and Zhou Yaohe, whose team developed a new type of aluminium that has been used in China’s prototype space station, quantum satellites and plans,

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Wang died in Beijing on September 20 aged 80, while Zhou was 92 at the time of his death in Shanghai on July 30.

The other leading scientists who have died since July were either members of the Chinese Academy of Sciences or the Chinese Academy of Engineering.

At present there are more than 1,500 academicians from the two institutions, membership of which is for life and is seen as a great honour.

Six of the scientists died within the past month, including Deng Qidong, a seismology specialist, Cheng Kaijia, a pioneer in China’s nuclear weapons programme, Hou Fusheng, who started working in the petrochemical industry in the 1950s, and Chen Chuangtian, a laser weapons specialist.

The official newspaper said the researchers had asked for little material reward when conducting their research.

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The report claimed that Min Naiben, a leading physicist and materials scientist who died in September at 83, had never asked for time off.

The report also stated that when he was made a member of the Chinese Academy of Sciences and offered better living conditions in 1991, he refused saying: “our motherland is richer and stronger … but I worry we will lose precious research time because we are getting rich”.