tirsdag 27. oktober 2020

Qian Xuesen: The scientist deported from the US who helped China into space

A Chinese scientist helped not one but two superpowers reach the moon, writes Kavita Puri, but his story is remembered in only one of them. In Shanghai there is an entire museum containing 70,000 artefacts dedicated to one man, "the people's scientist" Qian Xuesen.

Qian is the father of China's missile and space programme. His research helped develop the rockets that fired China's first satellite into space, and missiles that became part of its nuclear arsenal, and he is revered as a national hero. But in another superpower, where he studied and worked for more than a decade, his significant contributions are rarely remembered at all.

Qian was born in 1911, as China's last imperial dynasty was about to be replaced by a republic. His parents were both well-educated and his father, after working in Japan, established China's national education system. It was evident from an early age that Qian was gifted, and he eventually graduated top of his class at Shanghai University, winning a rare scholarship to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the US.