Former ECNU president Yuan Yunkai passes away


Professor Yuan

Yuan Yunkai, a well-known reformer in Chinese education and former president of ECNU, passed away in Shanghai on April 12 at the age of 88.Yuan Yunkai was also one of the founders of the history of natural science and natural dialectics departments and a prominent member of the International Eurasian Academy of Sciences.

Born in 1929, a native of Nantong City in East China’s Jiangsu Province, Professor Yuan entered Zhejiang University to study physics in 1947. After graduation in 1951 he took up a career in teaching physics at ECNU. As a result of Professor Yuan’s active dedication to his work at ECNU, he was able to climb the ranks of the university. His status and achievements are as follows: associate professor in 1978, ECNU’s first-elected vice president since 1949 in 1979, professor in 1986, and president of ECNU in 1984. He held his position as ECNU president for a decade until he retired in 1994. After his retirement, he was elected to become a member of the International Eurasian Academy of Sciences in June 1998.

 Professor Yuan’s ECNU work permit issued in January 1987.

Yuan had devoted his entire life to the history of physics, natural dialectics and theoretical physics. The following posts’ he served during his work in the field included: Dean of the Department of Physics of ECNU, Director of the Natural Dialectics & Natural Science History Institute, vice-chairman of the Shanghai Physical Society, director of the Shanghai Association for Science and Technology, chairman of the Board of the Shanghai Society for the History of Science and Technology, vice-director of the Chinese Society of Physics Popularization Working Committee, an executive-member the Science Magazine’s editorial board, chief editor in charge of the physics division on the Grand Dictionary of Chinese Language, and the main leader in charge of editing the National Science Curriculum (A guidebook for Grade 7-9 students).

 A graduation photo of Yuan at Nantong Middle School in July 1947.

ECNU is one the first universities in China to conduct research in the field of natural dialectics. As the inaugurator of the natural dialectics discipline at ECNU, Professor Yuan made many remarkable contributions to the founding and cultivation of talent in the physics and philosophy’s technology master degree programs. Professor Yuan was responsible for teaching and mentoring undergraduates and post-graduates of general physics, electrodynamics, atomic nucleus, natural dialectics and science history.

Yuan (1st L) in 1998 when he was elected a member of International Eurasian Academy of Sciences.

During Professor Yuan’s lifetime and career, he had always been deeply concerned about the quality of China’s education; especially in training qualified teachers not only at the university level, but also at primary and middle schools. He also carried out significant research in many aspects of physics and conducted in-depth comparison studies on mechanism, teaching orientation, teacher training, teaching reform, and curriculum and disciplinary education of the top Chinese and U.S. universities in the specialization field of teacher cultivation. He was also very active in the reforms and innovations on curriculum and textbook materials for Chinese and U.S. primary and middle schools.

Yuan makes an inscription for Great China Review of ECNU at his home in June 2013. 

Besides all of his success and achievements during his work at ECNU, Professor Yuan also held several positions in other areas of Chinese education: vice-chairman of the Shanghai Association of Higher Education, a member of the Executive Council of Chinese Association of Higher Education, chairman of the Chinese Association of Higher Normal Education Research Society, chairman of the China University Teacher Management Research Society, and vice director of the Shanghai Primary and Middle School Curriculum Reform Commission.

Professor Yuan’s dedication and honest work distinguished himself from others in pushing forward the development of China’s higher education and middle school curriculum reform. He certainly left his mark on the development and present status of ECNU and paved the way for essential reforms; moreover, his bold stand on support of China’s Reform and Opening Up Policy helped to facilitate its welcoming to the world outside of China. Yuan proposed the idea of “expansion, improvement and opening up” for ECNU’s development and made unremitting efforts to build it into a dignified university. His achievements earned him an honor from the Shanghai government in 1986 and a special allowance from the State Council of China in 1992.

Over the past dozens of years, I have switched between specializations and took up different positions. But one thing never changes. I’m always conscientious and ready to take on any job I do. Although I did not make great achievements, I love whatever job I’m engaged in and spare no efforts to accomplish any goals so as not to fail the expectations of the Party and people. It is gratifying that my hard work has been recognized by my comrades, colleagues and peers. In recent years, I have been doing some specific and detailed work for general education of universities in Shanghai and the rest of China in areas such as subject study, textbook writing and identification demonstration. Despite the fact that I’m aging, and my health is deteriorating, I want to continue to be useful to the development of education.

——Yuan Yunkai  


East China Normal University