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Visionary scientist helps China see benefits of radar technology

Updated : 2021-09-30

By ( China Daily )

Over the past four decades, 85-year-old Liu Yongtan has dedicated himself to the research of radar technology.
Liu was awarded the title Role Model of the Times by the Publicity Department of the Communist Party of China Central Committee in recognition of his achievements on Wednesday.
An academician with the Chinese Academy of Sciences and the Chinese Academy of Engineering, and a professor at the Harbin Institute of Technology in Heilongjiang province, Liu is a renowned expert in radar and signal processing technologies, and the originator of China's new radar systems for maritime navigation and defense.
Born in an intellectual family in Nanjing, Jiangsu province, in 1936, Liu had to endure a displaced childhood due to the War of Resistance Against Japanese Aggression (1931-45).
His parents named him Yongtan, meaning "eternal serenity", to express their wish for their son to live in a peaceful nation.
Throughout Liu's early childhood, his mother kindled his patriotism and curiosity by encouraging him to read Chinese history and literature. His father also instilled in him a passion for science by telling him how it could be used to save and revive the nation.
"In my childhood, I got a deep understanding of the country's rise and decline," he once said, according to a news release from the Harbin Institute of Technology. "Fortunately, I survived and had the opportunity to work hard and dedicate myself to changing the fate of my country."
With a great sense of national duty, Liu was admitted to the electrical engineering department at Harbin Institute of Technology in 1953.
Because of his excellent academic performance, in 1956, in his third year in college, he was assigned to study radio technology at Tsinghua University.
During two years of study at Tsinghua, Liu realized the great importance of radio technology, which revolutionized humanity's technological blueprint, way of life and the way war was waged in the 20th century.
Therefore, after returning to the institute in 1958, he helped in founding its radio engineering department.
In 1978, Liu went to the United Kingdom to start his study of radar technologies at the University of Birmingham, where he received new insights into the field.
"National security can be guaranteed only as far as its radar can see," he said. "At that time, other countries had already begun to develop new radar systems, raising in me a burning desire to help my country build a modernized radar system, which was sorely needed for both national defense and commercial activities."
Liu refused an invitation from his supervisor to stay in the UK and returned to China at the end of 1980.
In the 1980s, due to the national security environment and foreign technology blockade, China was in urgent need of technological breakthroughs in key defense equipment.
Liu Yongtan and his team started from scratch and spent 10 months completing a 200,000-word report, which fully demonstrated the theoretical possibility of a new radar system.
In 1989, they finally successfully built China's first new radar system station in Weihai, Shandong province, achieving a breakthrough in the range of sea detection.
His team also created the new radar detection system outlined in the previous report and realized a major original innovation in coastal defense early warning technology.
In 2011, Liu and his team again successfully developed a new radar system with full-time, all-weather and long-range detection capabilities, making another breakthrough in China's long-range maritime detection technology.
He has received lots of awards over the years, including the State Preeminent Science and Technology Award in 2018.
On Jan 8, 2019, President Xi Jinping presented the top awards to Liu for his achievements in radar technology.
At the high-profile ceremony, he also received a prize of 8 million yuan ($1.24 million). In August 2020, Liu and his wife Feng Bingrui, also a professor at the institute, decided to donate all the money to establish the Yongrui Fund to help the cultivation of talent in the electronic and information fields at the institute.
"I am just an ordinary teacher and a scientific research worker. I feel quite honored to have turned my ideals into reality," he said in the news release. "The achievements I have made are the result of the joint efforts of the institute and my team.
"This honor isn't just mine, it belongs to every patriotic intellectual in this great era," he said. "I hope more young students can develop a firm belief in serving the country and create more important and powerful tools that will benefit of the country in various fields."
"Everyone familiar with Liu knows that he is modest, incorruptible and self-disciplined," said Xiong Sihao, Party secretary of the institute. "Just like all great people of his generation, he interpreted the essence and the spirit of scientists through his outstanding achievements.
"He is the model for all teachers and students of the institute to follow and a beacon on our road as we strive forward."