In the previous story (#9) we mentioned Ramanujan having the luck of being spotted by Prof G.H. Hardy as the treasure of mathematics, another Chinese Hua Luogeng 华罗庚, 20 years younger than Ramanujan, was also coached by Prof Hardy, although Prof Hardy did not realize Hua’s potential later to the modern mathematics in China.
Hua dropped out of secondary school due to poverty, he worked in his father’s little grocery shop as the shop assistant. His talent was spotted by the French-educated mathematician Prof Xiong Qinlai ( 熊庆来) in Tsinghua University 清华大学 , from a paper the young boy published – on Quintic Equation Solvability error made by a Math Professor Su. Hua was admitted to Tsinghua University as assistant math lecturer on exception. Later he was sent to Cambridge on 庚子赔款 Boxer Indemnity scholarship.
When Prof Hardy met Hua, he let Hua choose between:
1) Work on a PhD degree on one research topic; or
2) Work on any topic without a PhD degree.
Hua chose the 2nd option to spend his most productive 2 years in Cambridge, making good friends among the world’s top mathematicians (Paul Erdös, André Weil, etc), and published more than 10 breakthroughs in mathematics.
Hua influenced the math education in Chinese secondary schools and universities. He adopted the best from Europe, the USA and the Russian syllabus, modified and translated them into Chinese textbooks after WW II.
In 1980s after the disastrous 10-year Mao’s Cultural Revolution when China was closed to the outside world, Hua convinced Deng Xiaoping to allow Chinese students participate in the International Mathematics Olympiad (IMO). He and his team designed training programmes and promoted math competitions throughout China. In the following 20 years Chinese IMO teams (CHN) have been dominating IMO Championships and winning Gold medals.
Hua died of heart failure at 74, during a lecture in Japan at the podium.