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January 12, 2010

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Home » Metro » Health and Science

Shanghai math maestro, lunar veteran win top science prize

A MATHEMATICIAN from Shanghai's Fudan University yesterday won the nation's highest honor for scientific innovation, along with a chief designer of China's lunar probe project.

President Hu Jintao presented an award of 5 million yuan (US$732,485) each to Gu Chaohao, 84, and Sun Jiadong, 81, at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing.

The State Scientific and Technological Awards were started in 2000 to encourage innovation. Sixteen scientists have been recipients of the top honor since their inception.

The last Shanghai winner of the top prize was world-renowned liver surgeon Wu Mengchao in 2005.

Gu and Sun are both members of the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

Shanghai won 56 honors at this year's awards, including a first prize honoring a large-span, high-pier bridge's earthquake resistance.

All bridges that adopted this technology survived the devastating earthquake that hit China's southwest Sichuan Province in May 2008.

The 56 prizes covered 15 percent of the total awards.

The technology for the large-span, high-pier bridge, invented by a team lead by Fan Lichu from Tongji University, won first prize for science and technology progress.

"This technology has been included into the national bridge standard and used on more than half of the big bridges in the nation," said Yin Bangqi, from the Shanghai Science and Technology Commission.

Japanese Arima Akito, an honorary professor at the Shanghai Institute of Applied Physics, under the umbrella of the CAS, won the international scientific cooperation award for promoting Sino-Japanese exchanges on nuclear physics.

The other 54 Shanghai-based honors were for projects headed by or involving local experts, who won four prizes in natural sciences, three in technological inventions and 47 in science and technology progress.

The 54 projects involved 651 patents for inventions and 11,293 know-how breakthroughs. Many of them have been successfully adopted into practical use.

Gu, a Zhejiang Province native, has taught in Shanghai's Fudan University and served as vice head of the university.

When 37, Gu dropped all he had achieved in classic mathematics and switched to a new area - partial differential equations - so his theories could be more useful in China's development.

Now he is a leading scientist in his area and is proud to take part in the theoretical design of China's supersonic aircraft and missiles.

A small planet was named after Gu by Fudan University last October.

Gu said every science worker should choose the area that the country needed most.

Though an octogenarian, Gu gets up at 7am daily and spends much of his waking hours studying mathematics.

His greatest wish now is to impart mathematical wisdom to his students.

Having spent 62 years in teaching, Gu still has three postgraduate students under his wing.

Nine of his students have become CAS academicians.

Sun Jiadong is widely regarded as one of the founders of China's space technology.

Born in northeast China's Liaoning Province in 1929, Sun was the chief designer of DFH-1, China's first space satellite.

He served as chief engineer for 34 satellites among the total of 100 that China has so far launched.

He became the chief designer of China's lunar probe project in 2003 and thus ushered in the era of the nation's deep-space exploration.


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