Citations and Speeches


157th Congregation (1999)

YANG Fujia

The Public Orator, Professor M.M.M. Chan, MA, MPhil, wrote and delivered the following citation:

In civilized societies educationalists are accorded the highest respect, education is seen as "the movement from darkness to light" (Allan Bloom). In equally high esteem are held scientists. The poet Auden held scientists in such awe that he wrote, "when I find myself in the company of scientists, I feel like a shabby curate who has strayed into a drawing room full of dukes". Our next honorand is doubly blessed in being both a highly successful educationalist and scientist.

Born in 1936 in Zhejiang province, Professor Yang Fujia is one of China's most distinguished physicists. He served as President of Fudan University in Shanghai for a period of six years, from 1993 to early 1999 and is currently Chairman, Board of Trustees of Fudan University, Director of the Shanghai Institute of Nuclear Research of the highly prestigious Chinese Academy of Sciences. He is also Zhonglu-Niels Bohr Professor of Physics at Fudan University; this is a singular honour in that it is perhaps the first time that a Chinese professor has held such a title. Professor Yang had the good fortune to discover his calling in life at a young age: when he was in junior high and most of his contemporaries were attracted to the study of engineering, he recognized that the study of physics was more basic. Physics is a natural science; a sound grounding in physics will mean the ability to apply its laws and principles to other scientific fields. He therefore devoted himself to the study of physics. His devotion has been amply rewarded. Today he finds his training in this natural science has inculcated principles of logic and the ability to think coherently, attributes which have proved invaluable not only in his work as a teacher and researcher but also as an administrator. He is effusive in singing the praises of the benefits of an education in physics both as an end in itself and as a foundation for other undertakings.

Soon after graduating from Fudan with a Bachelor of Science degree in Physics, he started his career as an educator by becoming a teaching assistant at his alma mater. Sustained by his outstanding ability he rose quickly through the ranks, becoming Lecturer, Vice-Chairman, Associate Professor and Dean of Fudan's Nuclear Science Department before being appointed Professor in 1980. In 1983, he became Director of the Modern Physics Research Institute. Between 1987 and 1991 he was Dean of Fudan's Graduate School before becoming President of the University 1n 1993.

His reputation as both educationalist and physicist have won him recognition nationally and internationally. He has been Director of the Shanghai Nuclear Research Institute since 1987; between 1992 and 1996 he was Chairman of the Shanghai Association of Science and Technology, and is at present an Honorary Member. Currently Professor Yang is a Member of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, Executive Member of the China Physics Society and of the International Association of University Presidents. He is also Chairman of the Association of University Presidents of China. Between 1963 and 1965 Professor Yang was a Visiting Scholar at the prestigious Bohr Institute in Denmark, where, in 1979, he returned as a Visiting Professor. In 1981 he was Visiting Professor at the State University of New York, Stonybrook. He was appointed Foreign Research Fellow of the Nuclear Physics Research Centre at the University of Tokyo in 1987 and the following year became Adjunct Professor of the University of Vanderbilt. Since 1991 he has been a Fellow of TWAS (The Third World Academy of Sciences). All these overseas appointments reflect Professor Yang's international reputation.

Though a dedicated educationalist, he did not lose sight of his scientific research. He pioneered research in ion beam emissions. His research established a more unified decay theory of complex energy levels which has profound applications in the radioactive industry. Professor Yang has also derived a generalized formula for measuring the half-life time of nuclei. He was the first to propose the method of using single crystal golden foil to investigate the tunneling effect on polarization property, enabling scientists to determine the polarization mechanism. No wonder it has been said, technology, sufficiently advanced, is indistinguishable from magic - at least to laymen!

Professor Yang has produced many research papers, on such topics as Cold Fusion and the Application of Ion Beam Emission in Archeology which have appeared in Nuclear Technology, Nature and Science. Professor Yang has also written many books, including Modern Atomic and Nuclear Physics, published by McGraw Hill which he co-authored and Atomic Physics and Nuclear Physics. Professor Yang is a firm believer in the permanence of books as repositories of thoughts and ideas, a good book being "the precious life blood of a master spirit...treasured up on purpose to a life beyond life" (Milton).

Between 1994 and 1997 Professor Yang received a good number of awards to mark his achievements and his contributions to the advancement of education, science and technology. Professor Yang is certainly no stranger to Honorary Degrees: in 1995 he received an Honorary Doctorate from Japan's Soka University; in 1998 one from the State University of New York and in July this year he will receive yet another from the University of Nottingham.

At Fudan, although he had to bear the burden of heavy administrative duties, Professor Yang was loathe to give up teaching altogether. Of the three activities of an academic: teaching, research and administration, he confesses he is fondest of teaching, but is the first to concede that teaching and research are mutually enriching; one cannot be carried out satisfactorily without the other. Well known to be an inspiring teacher, at a gathering of university students he introduced H3 N2C as the new magic formula to guide students studying in universities of the first rank. The three H3 are HOPE, HARDWORK and HONESTY; the N2 stand for NO SHAME TO ASK and NEVER GIVE UP; and the C stands for CIVILIZATION.

Professor Yang believes in a broad education which places emphasis on the humanities, and especially on the social sciences, in addition to the sciences. One of his ambitions is to see combinations between the life sciences and physics, a combination which makes possible the use of the principles and methodology of physics in researching the life sciences.

Since 1993 Fudan and our University have been enjoying a happy and fruitful collaboration in the form of joint research projects and exchange programmes for our students. Our relationship was further reinforced by the establishment of the Shanghai-Hong Kong Business Education and Research Centre and the launching of the MBA (International) Programme in September last year. This programme is jointly organized by Fudan and our University under the Centre, and is the first Hong Kong and Mainland China higher institutions' joint programme that has been approved by the Academic Degree Office of the National Council of China. Indeed Professor Yang shares many of our University's beliefs and aims; he believes with us that emphasis should be placed on students learning how to learn and on lifelong education; Like us he believes in the importance of creative thinking and the ability to express, to research and to organize. Professor Yang's active professional life and his dedication to work mean he has little time for his hobbies; listening to classical music, walking and swimming. Truly a leading light among China's scientists, Professor Yang does justice to his given name: Fujia; he has brought blessings and honour to his family and indeed to his country.

Mr Pro-Chancellor, in recognition of his contributions to education and to science I present Professor Yang Fujia for the award of the degree of Doctor of Science, Honoris Causa.