The 1984 Ramon Magsaysay Award for Government Service
CITATION for Wu Ta-you
Ramon Magsaysay Award Presentation Ceremonies
31 August 1984, Manila, Philippines
Assimilation of science coming from the West has been the core of the conflict between China's own immense inherited intellectual traditions and ideas from abroad. Nearly four centuries ago this struggle began when the first Jesuit scholar-missionaries won entry to the Forbidden Kingdom during the Ming Dynasty. At the Board of Astronomy in Peking and elsewhere they introduced an entirely new world view, challenging ancient Chinese classical precepts.
While the past century saw the emergence of important modern universities in China, and many students eagerly imbibed the new learning, a scientific view of reality did not permeate popular attitudes. As the Manchu Dynasty began to collapse in the 19th century, wars and revolutions compounded the crisis of conflicting ideologies and until recently crippled education in mainland China. In Taiwan over the past 35 years Chinese civilization for the first time has been able to digest modern science and technology.
TA-YOU WU came to his role of scientific innovator on Taiwan after an eminent career in physics as teacher and researcher. Born 77 years ago in Canton, WU began his study of physics at Nankai University in Tientsin and completed his graduate training at the University of Michigan before returning to a faculty appointment at Peking National University. In 1937 when Japanese aggression against China accelerated, WU joined other intellectual refugees at National Southwestern Associated University in Kunming. Between 1947 and 1978 he taught and engaged in research abroad at the University of Michigan, Columbia University, Polytechnic Institute of Brooklyn and the State University of New York at Buffalo, and headed the theoretical physics section of the National Research Council of Canada.
Although such foreign opportunities were absorbing, WU was concerned for his countrymen's future and in 1958 proposed to leaders in Taiwan a plan for the formulation of science policies and their implementation. Decisive action was taken after 1967 when the late President Chiang Kai-shek asked WU to head concurrently the new Advisory Committee for Science Development of the National Security Council, and the National Science Council (NSC), which was a greatly strengthened successor to the earlier committee set up in response to WU's proposal. In 1968 a 12-year science development plan was adopted for science education and the promotion of research in natural and applied sciences, the humanities and the social sciences. Today universities and research institutes throughout Taiwan are staffed by professors sent abroad for advanced study and Chinese scholars brought back from abroad under this plan. The NSC budget has risen from US$10 million to US$30 million annually to insure continuous invigoration of science education and research in the republic.
WU led this effort and commuted between Taiwan and his professorial duties at the State University of New York in Buffalo from 1967 to 1978 when he returned permanently to Taipei. Eschewing retirement he was soon embarked, for the Ministry of Education, upon a complete review and reorganization of the science curricula of junior and senior high schools. Under his direction more than 100 professors and teachers are rewriting, and revising after trials, all the textbooks on mathematics, physics, chemistry, biology, earth sciences and engineering. This comprehensive project forms the basis for a new system of teaching science to young people and is leading toward a more dynamic society. As the electronic information industry becomes an integral part of Taiwan's economy, there are well-trained new graduates to staff it and help it expand.
For a person with a dozen scientific books and numerous pioneering papers on such subjects as molecular, astro and atmospheric physics to his credit, WU remains a man of simple habits, shunning material wealth. His attention to science education and research, for this and future generations, has won him the respect of his studentstwo of whom are Nobel Prize winnersand of the international scientific fraternity. Impatient for the improvements he seeks, he has set a standard for selfless service that invites emulation.
In electing Dr. TA-YOU WU to receive the 1984 Ramon Magsaysay Award for Government Service, the Board of Trustees recognizes his designing Taiwan's move toward the forefront of science in education and practice.
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