Prof. Lu Yongxiang receives the Harnack Medal

Prof. Lu Yongxiang, President of the Chinese Academy of Science (CAS) has been honoured with the Harnack medal

November 24, 2006

The award, which is the highest distinction that the Max Planck Society can confer, was presented by Prof. Peter Gruss, the President of the Society, during a meeting of the Senate of the Max Planck Society on 24 November in Berlin. The Max Planck Society is honouring Lu’s success as the top-ranking representative of Chinese science. The 64-year-old has been active as the head of the scientific organisation and its 58,000 members of staff, since 1997. The Chinese Academy of Science was founded in 1949, and has maintained close contacts with the Max Planck Society for 30 years.

It was a genuine premiere: in 1974, an eight-man delegation from the Max Planck Society led by Reimar Lüst, its President at that time, travelled to China at the invitation of the Chinese Academy of Science. The trip marked the start of a 32-year research friendship, which was immediately sealed with an agreement to work together as equal partners in the field of science. Since then, this collaboration has enjoyed intensive support from the governments of both countries. "Since Lu Yongxiang assumed his post, he has initiated new forms of cooperation which have made a considerable contribution towards successfully maintaining this tradition," said the Max Planck President Peter Gruss in honouring his Chinese colleague. "He has made the Chinese Academy of Sciences a very popular partner on an international level. "In doing so, he has also used the Max Planck Society as a model and adapted certain aspects of its mission to the context in China," Gruss continued his praise.

In the meantime, the Chinese Academy of Sciences is maintaining numerous cooperative ventures with other German research organisations, universities and high-tech companies. However, as Lu Yongxiang likes to emphasise, the Max Planck Society is the most important partner and the partnership is the best worldwide. His initiative was the starting point for the Institute for Computational Biology for which the CAS and the Max Planck Society bear joint responsibility and which since 2005 has been operated as a partnership establishment in Shanghai. This is the first institution linking the two organisations. Lu Yongxiang also started a graduate sponsorship program which allows the best young minds from the Chinese Academy of Sciences to work at Max Planck Institutes. There have also been partnership groups established at CAS research institutions. Chinese fellowship holders who have worked as guests at Max Planck Institutes for at least a year lead these groups, which are thereby linked directly to their previous Max Planck partners and help to build up networks.

Lu Yongxiang, who was born in 1942 in Ningbo (Zhejian province), has benefited personally from the good scientific relations between China and Germany. Following his studies in mechanical engineering at the University of Zhejiang in Hangzhou, he went to Aachen in 1981 and completed his doctorate at the RWTH Aachen University. He subsequently returned to Zhejiang University. He became an Institute Director and then shortly afterwards Vice President of the China Association for Science and Technology, before being appointed President of his alma mater in 1988. He has been President of the Chinese Academy of Science since 1997. As Deputy Chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress, Lu Yongxiang also occupies an important position in politics. Furthermore, he holds honorary doctorates from various Chinese Universities and has also received a number of prestigious international awards, including the Great Cross of Merit from the Federal Republic of Germany. In 2005, Lu Yongxiang was elected President of the Inter Academy Councils (IAC) in Amsterdam, an umbrella organisation for international cooperation in science and technology whose members comprise scientific academies in over 80 countries.

The Harnack medal, which was founded in 1924, is the highest award that the Max Planck Society, as the successor organisation of the Kaiser Wilhelm Society, can confer. It goes back to Adolf von Harnack, the theologian and science policy maker who was one of the founding fathers of the Kaiser Wilhelm Society and its first President from 1911-1930. The last time it was presented was in 2004 to Hubert Markl, a former President of the Max Planck Society.

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