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Qian Xuesen
Qian Xuesen

SJTU Alumnus, the world-famous dynamicist and system engineering scientist, Qian Xuesen is the inaugurator of China's space technology, who laid foundation for space rise in China. Originally from Hangzhou, Zhejiang Province, Qian Xuesen was born in December 1911. He was admitted to National Chiao Tung University (the former name of Shanghai Jiao Tong University) after graduating from the High School Affiliated to Beijing Normal University in 1929. In 1930, he took a year off because of typhoid fever. Four years later, he graduated from the Department of Railroad Administration, School of Mechanical Engineering, ranking first in academic performance.

In the year of graduation, Qian received a scholarship from Tsinghua University on which he went to the United States to study aeronautical engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and earned a Master of Science degree from MIT next year. Later he went to the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) to pursue his studies of aeronautical engineering theory under Theodore von Kármán, the "Father of Supersonic Age". Qian earned his doctorate in aerospace and mathematics from Caltech in 1939. Then he remained on the Caltech faculty and carried out researches on missile and rocket. In 1947 Qian was appointed as President of Chiao Tung University when he returned to China to get married, but he did not take the post. Shortly after his wedding, Qian returned to America, to teach as professor in MIT and Caltech till 1955, establishing a reputation as one of the leading rocket scientists in the world. From 1950, Qian began to make efforts to return to his motherland, yet he suffered persecution and incarceration of the American government. After five years, he finally came back to his mother country in 1955.

After returning to China, Qian immediately put to work developing China's space program. In February 1956, he submitted a position paper on China's defense and aviation industry to the State Council, which served as the first key scheme for the development of China's rocketry. In October of the same year, Qian was assigned to set up the first rocket research institute -- the Fifth Academy of the National Defense Ministry (now China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation) as director. He initiated and oversaw 57 major scientific research projects, with emphasis on the development of nuclear power, missile, computer and semiconductor, laying the groundwork for New China's S&T development. As one of the chief founders of New China's national defense technology industry, Qian Xuesen made historical contributions. In 1960, he successfully produced the nation's first missile. In 1966, a nuclear-tipped missile was successfully launched with Qian as the administrator of the "missile combined with nuclear bomb" program. In 1965, the central government took Qian's advice on developing and launching the artificial satellite, and appointed him as the first president of China Academy of Space Technology (CAST). China's first man-made satellite was launched successfully in 1970, ushering in the dawn of New China's space age. Thereafter Qian served as Vice President of National Defense Science and Technology Committee, President of China Association for Science and Technology, Vice Chairman of CPPCC, and was appointed as academician of CAS (Chinese Academy of Science) and CAE (Chinese Academy of Engineering).

Qian Xuesen made pioneering contributions in the fields of applied mechanics, jet propulsion, engineering cybernetics, physical mechanics and system engineering. He was also quite accomplished in operational research, modern science and technology system, somatic science, thinking science deserticulture theory and social philosophy. His monographs included Engineering Cybernetics, Creating Systematology, Lecture Notes on Physical Mechanics, and Hydrodynamic Manuscript Facsimiles, etc. He won the first prize of the National Natural Science Awards in 1957 and the grand prize of the National Award for S&T Progress in 1985. In 1989, he was granted Willard F. Rockwell Medal and the title of Honorary Member World Level of the Hall of Fame for Engineering. He received the honorary title of "China's outstanding scientist with outstanding achievements" issued by the State Council and the Central Military Commission in 1991 and the Achievement Medal for contributions in the "Two Bombs and One Satellite" program in 1999. In 2008, China Central Television named Qian as one of the eleven most inspiring people in China. Qian Xuesen has been honored as "Father of China's space program" and "backbone of the Chinese nation".


Reported by Wang Jie