Chen is my hero! (excerpt from L.K. Hua’s biography)

But all that was in the future. In 1966 Mao set in motion the next national calamity, which came to be known as the Cultural Revolution and would last 10 years. A pronouncement of Mao dated as early as June 26, 1965, sent a dire signal of things to come to the intellectuals: "The more you read, the more stupid you become." Hua spent many of these years under virtual house arrest. He attributed his survival to the personal protection of Chou En-lai. Even so, he was exposed to harassing interrogations, some of his manuscripts (on mathematical economics) were confiscated and are now irretrievably lost, and attempts were made to extract from his associates and former students damaging allegations against him. (In 1978 the Chinese ambassador to the United Kingdom described one such occasion to me; Chen Jing-run, then probably the best known Chinese mathematician of the next generation, was made to stand in a public place for several hours, surrounded by a mob, and exhorted to bear witness against Hua. Chen, present at this conversation, chimed in to say that, actually, he had quite enjoyed the occasion, since no student could trouble him with silly questions and he had had time, uninterrupted, to think about mathematics!) It is surely no accident that the flow of Hua’s publications came to an untimely end in 1965. He continued to work, of course. There are several joint papers on numerical analysis (with Wang Yuan) and on optimization (with Ke Xue Tong Bao) in the 1970s, but these are probably based on work done earlier; there are also expository articles and texts derived from the vast teaching and consulting experience he accumulated over the years. As he would reminisce sadly in a 1991 article, "Upon entering [my] sixtieth year . . . almost all energy and spirit were taken from me."


About aquazorcarson

math PhD at Stanford, studying probability
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