Monday, April 09, 2012

In Memory of Fang Lizhi

Chinese atrophysist and dissident inspiration Fang Lizhi has died (E), in exile, as free-thinking Chinese seemingly must.

The newspaper obituaries note that Fang and his wife hid in the U.S. Embassy for 13 months following the nationwide crackdown on dissidents, connected or not to the Tien An Men protests. What they fail to clarify by saying "hid" meant that at the time their whereabouts were completely unknown.

I once attended one of a pair of lectures given by Fang at my university. The morning lecture had been for his fellow scientists, on his research into mathematically possible universes. The afternoon lecture was about the situation in contemporary China. During the lecture he talked about Tien An Men and his and his wife's disappearance, during which many around the world thought he had been imprisoned or even killed.

He impishly pointed out that even while in hiding he continued to publish his research in scientific journals, somewhat undermining theories that he was dead. "And it was not really a secret where I was," he continued, as he showed a slide of a blow up of the "about the author" section that appears on the first page of a scientific paper.

There at the bottom, as clear as clear could be, was "Dr. Fang can be contacted at the U.S. Embassy, Beijing..."

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