Professor Wang Shenghong is a renowned scientist who specialises in precision machinery engineering. He is also a prominent and passionate educator. Wang's ancestors were villagers and his parents were brought up and educated in the countryside. Wang's father and mother believed, however, that they should move to Shanghai to provide a good education for their nine children. Wang proved himself to be an excellent student, who tells me that he was, from early days, fascinated by the night sky. He would spend endless hours staring up at the moon and stars, enjoying the vastness of the heavens. At high school he even managed to make his own telescope from thick glass taken from steamships. His father worked in a textile mill and used to take Wang and his brothers and sisters to the workshop, where he was became in awe of the giant machinery.
These early impressions formed the spark for his future career. It was, therefore, hardly surprising that, when admitted to the Shanghai University of Science and Technology in 1965, Wang chose to study a major that would allow him to make large-scale electronic equipment, including telescopes so that he could observe the night sky with its orbiting satellites. His interest was further excited when astronaut Neil Armstrong landed on the moon.
He was indeed inspired to pursue advanced studies in precision tracking radar in the hope that, one day, China could join in space exploration. During the period from 1981 until 1983 he pursued further studies and conducted co-operational research as a visiting scholar in the USA in the Department of Civil and Mechanical Engineering at Purdue University, the Department of Space Engineering at the University of Arizona and the Department of Astronomy at the University of Texas.
As Chair Professor appointed by the Ministry of Education, he held the post of Associate Director of the China Electro-Mechanical Engineering Association from 1980 until 1990, during which period he was engaged in teaching and research into the structural design of precision tracking radar, radio telescopes and large scale antenna systems involving computational mechanics. He took charge of many significant research projects including the construction of a Twenty Metre Satellite Antenna System within the KC Frequency Range and a Long Baseline Interferometer Radio Telescope. For this work he was awarded several important prizes, including a Shanghai Award for Scientific Research Achievements and a First Prize for Scientific and Technological Advancement. He was also awarded the title of Outstanding Worker on the Frontline of Science and Technology.
As the person in charge of satellite earth station structural design, he collaborated with colleagues in the Astronomy Department of the University of Texas to construct the largest astronomy telescope in the world.
Wang is not only a renowned scientist but has also devoted his skills and passion to higher education. He was appointed Executive Vice-President of Shanghai University of Science and Technology in 1984, holding the post of President of Shanghai University from 1987 to 1993. In 1998 he was appointed President of Fudan University, a post he held until his retirement in 2009.
Wang holds very high ideals. He says that education is meant to inspire enthusiasm for creation, a passion for life and the pursuit of ultimate truth and good. Institutional education should be aimed at cultivating generous, intelligent and welcoming citizens for society, nations and the global community. It should enrich human civilisation.
He has also identified three challenges that face modern education. First, he says that modern educational goals lack the spirit of humanity. Secondly, there is a lack of innovative thinking. Education should instill in students (and particularly scientists) a sense of mission, broad vision, independent thinking and imagination. Thirdly, the education system must not be rigid and narrow in focus, but rather be flexible to ensure that students have sufficient breadth of knowledge and learning skills to adapt to changing global conditions.
Wang has also been involved in education in Hong Kong as a member of the University Grants Committee.
Wang holds honorary degrees from several universities including the University of Manchester, the National University of Ireland and Waseda University in Japan.
In 1995 he was appointed Vice-Chair of the Shanghai Branch of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference and he has also served as a delegate to the National Congress of the CPC and the National Political Consultative Conference.
Notwithstanding his many work commitments, Wang has always enjoyed his private time. He was a successful marathon runner in his early days and used to play football as a goalkeeper. Now his sporting life consists of watching soccer on the television!
He is also an avid reader. Deep down a romantic, hardly surprisingly, his favourite author is Jules Verne!
Mr Pro-Chancellor, Professor Wang has shown great passion for both investigating space and rendering it more accessible. He is equally passionate about educating the young.
It is my honour and privilege to present to you Professor Wang Shenghong for the award of Doctor of Social Sciences honoris causa.
Citation written and delivered by Professor Michael Wilkinson, the Public Orator of the University.