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Professor YANG Fujia

75th Congregation (2013)

Professor YANG Fujia
Doctor of Science


A person's name often hints at their parents' expectations of them. The man we are here to honour today, in his works and his achievements, has far exceeded those expectations. In Chinese, 'Fujia' means bringing happiness to family, Yang Fujia has brought happiness not only to his family, but also to his country, his fellow citizens, and to all humanity. Professor Yang Fujia is one of the most distinguished scientists and influential educators in contemporary China. Born in Shanghai in 1936, he is a native of Ningbo, Zhejiang, and graduated in 1954 from the Gezhi High School of Shanghai, where he developed an interest in science. In 1958, he graduated with flying colours from Fudan University with a degree in physics, and stayed on at the university as a teacher. In 1963, he was sent to Copenhagen, a city known for atomic physics research, and furthered his studies on nuclear physics at the Niels Bohr Institute, specialising in nuclear spectroscopy. During this time, his work confirmed some of the single particle motion in nuclei, which is still widely cited by the international nuclear physics community. His studies at the Niels Bohr Institute also enabled him to work closely with dozens of the world's most accomplished scientists. Through close interaction and cooperation, Professor Yang was able to foster the "Copenhagen Spirit", one that stresses the importance of engagement in equal and free discussions and collaborations in delivering a rich academic atmosphere. In 1965, Professor Yang returned to China and resumed his teaching role in nuclear physics at Fudan University. When the outbreak of the Cultural Revolution interrupted scientific research, in spite of social unrest and scarcity of resources, Professor Yang never stopped his research. Under his persistent efforts and leadership, China's first accelerator-based atomic and nuclear physics laboratory was built. In the field of nuclear spectroscopy, he developed a more unified formula for the decay of complex energy levels through repeated experiments, which included as special cases most known formulas used in China and abroad. These formulas have been widely used in the radioactive industry, leading to the development of a generalised formula used in measuring the half life of nuclei. He also led a team in discovering the narrowest doublet state (900eV)using gamma-ray resonance absorption, and he opened the door to research on ion beam analysis in mainland China. He was the first to use double foils(vertical and horizontal)to do research on polarisation change; he also helped to elucidate the polarisation mechanism by proposing the use of single-crystal golden foils to investigate the effect of channelling on polarisation. Because of his achievements in nuclear research, Professor Yang was elected an academician of the Chinese Academy of Sciences in 1991, and a fellow of The Academy of Sciences for the Developing World in the same year. In 1993, Professor Yang was installed as the President of Fudan University, leading the university until 1999. During this time he was also appointed the Director of the Shanghai Institute of Applied Physics under the Chinese Academy of Sciences and the founding President of the Association of University Presidents of China. Professor Yang's contributions in nuclear physics are well documented. However, his efforts in advancing higher education have been even more pronounced. He has been a leader for three world-famous universities: he is the former President of Fudan University, the former Chancellor of The University of Nottingham, United Kingdom, and the current President of The University of Nottingham Ningbo China. During his six-year tenure (1993–1999)as the President of Fudan University, Professor Yang, as a first-rate scientist, led Fudan to become a quality university that is people-oriented and known for both the humanities and the sciences. He also established the Fudan Development Institute, which acts as a think-tank for the Shanghai city and the Central Government, and provides advice and services towards the development of a knowledge-based economy. A news article from Wenhui Bao said: "Professor Yang Fujia was the first to introduce and elaborate the concept of a knowledge-based economy to China, and what economic, social and educational impacts it can bring to the country." This also shows Professor Yang as a pioneer in the reform of modern education. In addition to the establishment of the think-tank and moves towards the development of a knowledge-based economy, Professor Yang was proactive in his Fudan University tenure in elevating the university’s status in the global arena, as well as opening up opportunities for the world to understand China. He joined the International Association of University Presidents, and was elected an Executive Member. He was also the representative of China on the Board of Directors of the Association of East Asian Research Universities, and a member of the Association of University Presidents of the Pacific Rim. Professor Yang’s achievements in scientific research, his social insights and aspiration to reform and to develop higher education did not go unnoticed in international education circles. A year after he retired as the President of Fudan University, The University of Nottingham in the United Kingdom, appointed him as its new Chancellor in December 2000. It was an unprecedented move because traditionally the role was typically assumed only by royalty or peers of the realm; this was the first time that a Chinese academic had become Chancellor of a university in the United Kingdom. More than three years spent at Nottingham broadened Professor Yang's horizons and deepened his understanding of education. It also gave him new hope in his goal of reforming China's higher education. In 2004, he spearheaded the establishment of China's first Sino-foreign collaborative university, The University of Nottingham Ningbo China, which is a partner university between the city of Ningbo and The University of Nottingham. Elected the founding President of this new university, Professor Yang helped created a new model within China's education system with the intent of bringing Chinese higher education to the world stage. As a distinguished educationist, Professor Yang does not go with the flow at a time when most of China's universities are focusing on expanding and building new campuses. On the contrary, he runs the university with a spirit of compassion, based on the principle that a top university's most important responsibility is to nurture talent. His insights, vision and integrity deserve our admiration. He has not only contributed to his family, his country and people, but to all humanity as well. In recognition of his distinguished achievements in physics research, his contribution to education in China and the world, and in appreciation of his educational ideals, Mr Chairman, it is my privilege to present Professor Yang Fujia for the award of the degree of Doctor of Science, honoris causa.