November 12, 1910–June 12, 1985
BY HEINI HALBERSTAM
LOO-KENG HUA WAS one of the leading mathematicians of his time and one of the two most eminent Chinese mathematicians of his generation, S. S. Chern being the other. He spent most of his working life in China during some of that country’s most turbulent political upheavals. If many Chinese mathematicians nowadays are making distinguished contributions at the frontiers of science and if mathematics in China enjoys high popularity in public esteem, that is due in large measure to the leadership Hua gave his country, as scholar and teacher, for 50 years.
Hua was born in 1910 in Jintan in the southern Jiangsu Province of China. Jintan is now a flourishing town, with a high school named after Hua and a memorial building celebrating his achievements; but in 1910 it was little more than a village where Hua’s father managed a general store with mixed success. The family was poor throughout Hua’s formative years; in addition, he was a frail child afflicted by a succession of illnesses, culminating in typhoid fever that caused paralysis of his left leg; this impeded his movement quite severely for the rest of his life. Fortunately Hua was blessed from the start with a cheerful and optimistic disposition, which stood him in good stead then and during the many trials ahead.