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WONG Yung Chow

Doctor of Science
honoris causa

It appears to me that the University, and perhaps Nature, favours those who are born on the first two days of the month. I find that all four of our graduands today share this distinction.

Professor Wong Yung Chow, who was born on June 2, 1913, has made full use of his gift from Nature by pursuing a distinguished academic career. He received his first degree, a Gold Medal for scholastic achievement, from Sun Yat-sen University in 1935. After obtaining a doctorate from the University of London in 1940, he spent seven years at three leading universities in the United States. In 1947 he was recalled to the University of London to receive the degree of Doctor of Science for his work on Riemannian geometry. After a year as Professor of Mathematics at Sun Yat-sen University, he was invited to reoccupy the Chair of Mathematics at the University of Hong Kong in 1948.

Our graduand’s contributions to his field of learning have been well documented in the many papers that bear his name. However, I should like to quote from a forthcoming work by Professor J.G. Semple and Dr J A Tyrrel of King’s College, London. The topic discussed is "The geometry of Clifford parallels": "For almost a century following Clifford’s original work, it seemed to be the general view that Clifford parallelism was an isolated phenomenon, peculiar to three-dimensional geometry, and not admitting of generalization to higher space. Quite recently, however, Wong (1960) has discounted this view by developing an interesting theory of generalized Clifford parallelism for (n-1) – dimensional linear subspaces of (2n-1) – dimensional elliptic space”.

Nearer to home, and somewhat more down to earth, he has acted as Dean of the Faculty of Engineering (1950-1953) and Pro-Vice-Chancellor (1963-66) of this University. As Chairman of the Post-Secondary Colleges Joint Diploma Board, member of the Provisional Council and later Council of the Chinese University, he has played an important part in the establishment of our sister university. His contributions to higher education in Hong Kong were duly recognised by Her Majesty in the Honours List of January 1963.

When one adds to this list of time-consuming duties the administrative and teaching duties of a rapidly expanding department, one cannot but wonder how he has managed to remain so young, both in heart and in physique. Indeed, he does not appear to me to be a day older than on that day fifteen years ago when I first had occasion to seek his help. I must hasten to dispel any suggestion that he has found, in his researches into higher mathematics, some secret equation for eternal youth. His youthful appearance is easily ascribable to a happy married life and to the many miles he has traveled, on foot, on his veranda, in the early hours of each day.

This year will mark the twentieth anniversary of Professor Wong’s appointment to the University of Hong Kong. But his contact with this University goes back a further ten years. For, in 1938, it was at this University that he sat for the examinations that were a part of a nationwide competition for twenty scholarships. In September of the same year, while on his way, to Britain, he was entertained by the Student’s Union. I have no doubt that the generosity on the part of our students influenced his decision to return ten years later.

Mr Pro-Chancellor, I complete my duty as Public Orator at this Congregation by requesting you confer upon our distinguished Professor of Mathematics the degree of Doctor of Science, honoris causa.

Citation written and delivered by Dr Arnold Chia-Loh Hsieh, BSC, MD, DSC, the Public Orator of the University.

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