Home > Spotlight > Alumni Spotlight > Alumni Spotlight 2009
Zhang Guangdou
Zhang Guangdou

Zhang Guangdou, the senior member of the Chinese Academy of Sciences and Chinese Academy of Engineering and a world-known specialist in hydraulic and hydropower engineering. He was born on May 1, 1912 in Changshu, Jiangsu Province. In 1924, with the excellent entrance examination results, he entered the Affiliated Primary School of Jiao Tong University (the former name of Shanghai Jiao Tong University) and later gained direct pathway to the affiliated secondary school, the preparatory school and the university. In the year of 1934, he graduated from the School of Civil Engineering. Right in the same year he won the American Indemnity Scholarship for China at Tsinghua University to further his study in America, and specialized in hydraulic engineering.

Zhang Guangdou obtained his Master degree in Civil Engineering from University of California, Berkeley in 1936. And one year later he also obtained Master Degree in Engineering Mechanics from Harvard University and continued his study there as a Ph.D. candidate.

After the Anti-Japanese War broke out, Zhang resolutely gave up his study in the United States and returned to the motherland, where he worked in the Hydroelectric Engineering Bureau of the National Resources Commission.

In 1943, he was sent by the Chinese government to the United States to investigate the water conservancy there. He worked as an intern first in the United States Bureau of Reclamation and then in the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA). He returned to China in 1945 and held the post of engineer in charge and chief engineer in the National Hydroelectric Engineering Bureau of the National Resources Commission. After the New China was founded, Zhang Guangdou had the opportunity to put his talents into use. He served as Professor, dean of the Department of Water Conservancy Engineering and Vice President at Tsinghua University successively; meanwhile, he held a concurrent post of President of Beijing Institute of Water Conservancy, leader of the Water Resources group of the State Science and Technology Commission (SSTC), Chief Editor of Journal of Hydraulic Engineering, Deputy Director of the Academic Degree Commission of the State Council, etc. He was deputy to the Third National People's Congress, Vice Chairman of the Fifth and Sixth Beijing Municipal Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) and member of the standing committee of the CPPCC.

Senior alumnus Zhang Guangdou is the trailblazer of our country's water conservancy and hydropower engineering construction. As early as 1937, he was in charge of the designing of the first batch of the self-built hydropower stations in China such as Peach Blossom Creek hydropower station and Fairy Cave hydropower station. In 1946 he took charge of the first-ever estimation of China's hydropower resources reserves. In 1952 he presided over designing the People's Victory Canal, which was the first successful trial in diverting the Yellow River water for irrigation. And in 1958 he presided over designing Beijing Miyun Reservoir by using thin clay, inclined shear wall and other new techniques, which was the pioneering attempt in China.

In the following ten years or so, he devoted himself to the water conservancy construction in full swing and his footprint spread over lots of major water conservancy construction sites such as Fengman, Xin'an River, Liuxi River, Xiang Hong Dian, Sanmen Gorge and Yuzi Creek. He poured his heart into numerous major projects including Dan Jiangkou Reservoir, Ge Zhouba Hydropower plant, Three Gorges Project, South-North Water Transfer Project, Diverting the Yellow River Water to Qingdao Project and so forth.

He either participated in the design or put forward some suggestions in these projects and in spite of his great age he still went to the construction sites in person. He has made extremely valuable contributions to China's water conservancy cause. Apart from those specific projects, he has actively put forward constructive suggestions to China's macro decision of the water conservancy cause. For example, in 1989 he wrote to the central government and suggested that water conservancy should be listed as the strategic focus of China's economic construction, water conservancy economic policy should be adjusted, and water conservancy construction should be carried out according to the law of a planned commodity economy. The central government paid great attention to his suggestions and adopted them. Guang Ming Daily praised his suggestions as "the most valuable suggestions" China's scientists had put forward that year.

Zhang dedicated himself to the engineering education for over 40 years with fruitful and brilliant achievements. In the 1950's, he was the first to establish hydraulic structure subject system and hydropower station construction subject system and fostered China's first group of hydraulic-structure-major postgraduates. He has published over 30 papers in China's first-level academic journals such as The Research on the New Dam Structure of Arch-Abdomen Dam. He also published his monograph Hydraulic Structure. He won the National Award for Technology Advancement (2nd Prize), the first Technology Achievement Award from Chinese Academy of Engineering, and the Ho Leung Ho Lee Advancement Prize (The Ho Leung Ho Lee Foundation).

Zhang Guangdou's achievement also enjoys a high reputation in the international academia. He won the Haas International Award from UC Berkeley in 1981 and was elected as a foreign member of Mexico National Academy of Engineering in 1983. He is a world-renowned specialist in hydraulic and hydropower engineering and was acclaimed as the contemporary Li Bing, an ancient Chinese administrator and engineer of the Warring States period and renowned for his association with the Dujiangyan Irrigation System.

Reported by Li Jing