Huang Wanli

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Huang Wanli.jpg


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.

From 1938 to 1943, he served as the engineer of Water Resources Bureau of Sichuan Province and the director of the Fujiang Waterway Engineering Office. From 1943 to 1945, he concurrently served as a technician of the National Rehabilitation and Relief Administration and an inspection engineer of the former Ministry of Water Resources. 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.[2] 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.

Hydrological Achievements[edit]

Professor Huang Wanli was one of the pioneers in the study of modern hydrology in China. He proposed “the theory of instantaneous hydrograph” in his doctoral thesis "The Analysis of the Rainfall: Runoff Correlation" published in 1937. It was 19 years earlier than the “instantaneous unit hydrograph” proposed by the Irish hydrologist Professor Nash. His book Flood discharges estimation and Engineering Hydrology published in 1956 and 1957 are one of the earliest hydrological books in modern China. He proposed the "Sand flow continuity equation" and "The law of the maximum rate of energy dissipation on continuum dynamics" in 1975 and 1976. The theory were applied to the river hydrology and geomorphology evolution analysis, which became an important theoretical basis for the "River management principles" advocated by him. He had profound knowledge in river management, and his thoughts on river management were based on a deeply understanding of the laws of river hydrology and geomorphology formation and evolution. He not only put forward unique insights into the construction of the Sanmen Gorges on the Yellow River and the Three Gorges on the Yangtze River, but also devoted himself to studying the governance strategies of China's major rivers, and wrote his research experience as a handout "Shui Jing Lun Cong & Principles of River Governance”. In this book, he proposed the governance strategies for the Yellow River, Yangtze River, Huai River, Hai River, Taihu Lake and other major rivers.

Huang Wanli opposed the construction of both the Sanmenxia and Three Gorges dams, warning in both cases about the dangers of sedimentation.

Reference Material[edit]

Wikipedia page for Huang Wanli

Kelly Haggart, 2002, A tale of two scientists, Probe International

Major Publications[edit]


Zhao Cheng (2013). 《黄万里的长河孤旅》 [Huang Wanli's Lonely Journey along the Rivers] (in Chinese). Shaanxi: Shaanxi People's Publishing House. ISBN 9787224104783.English Summary

Choking on the Three Gorges, The Economist, Jun 9th 2011