Huang Wanli 20 August 1911 (Chuansha County, Jiangsu (now Pudong, Shanghai, China) − 27 August 2001 (Beijing, China)
Huang was the third of six sons of Huang Yanpei and Wang Jiusi. In 1924, he enrolled in Wuxi Industrial School. He entered Tangshan Jiaotong University (now Southwest Jiaotong University) in 1927 and graduated in 1932. After college, he worked as an apprentice engineer in Huangzhou-Zhejiang Railway. In 1934, Huang went to the United States. He received a master's degree from Cornell University in hydrology in 1935 and a doctor of engineering degree from University of Illinois in 1937. He worked at the Tennessee Valley Authority before returning to China in 1937.
In 1945, Huang became an engineer in China's Ministry of Water Resources. He was the chief engineer and head of the Gansu Water Conservancy Bureau from 1947 till April 1949. He was an adviser of Northeast China Water Conservancy Administration in September 1949. He taught at Tangshan Jiaotong University in June 1950, and he was transferred to Tsinghua University in 1953.
In 1957, Huang was labeled a "Rightist" and persecuted by Mao Zedong for his criticism of the Sanmenxia Dam on the Yellow River because of the expectation of sedimentation issues (the dams was full of sediment 2 years after completion). He was sent to the Poyang Lake, Jiangxi to work, and was only transferred back to Tsinghua University in 1974, when the students of Tsinghua University paraded him through the streets and beat him in public. Huang was rehabilitated by the Tsinghua University Party Committee on February 26, 1980. A letter sent to US President Clinton about sedimentation of the Three Gorges Dam is thought to have been influential in reversing US support for the project.
Huang was married to Ding Yujuan, daughter of Ding Weifen, a founding father of Kuomingtang. They had six children.
Because of his views, Huang was not permitted to teach in China for four decades – until 1998, when at the age of 87 he was finally allowed to lecture postgraduate students at Qinghua University. On the day of his first class, he entered the lecture hall wearing an all-white Western suit and a red tie – the colour red in China symbolizing joy and a festive occasion. After three happy years of teaching, Mr. Huang died at the age of 90 in Qinghua Garden of Tsinghua University.
Huang Wanli, opposed the construction of both the Sanmenxia and Three Gorges dams, warning in both cases about the dangers of sedimentation.