Academician Hsien-Wen Li (李先聞)

  • 1926 Bachelor, Department of Horticulture, Purdue University
  • 1930 Ph.D, Cornell University
  • 1931 Department of Biology, Northeastern University
  • 1932 Agricultural College of Henan University
  • 1935 Agricultural College of National Wuhan University
  • 1935 Sichuan Rice and Wheat Improvement Institute
  • 1945 Research fellow, Institute of Botany, Academia Sinica
  • 1948 Taiwan Sugar Company
  • 1948 first academician of the Academia Sinica
  • 1954 preparatory director of the Institute of Botany, Academia Sinica
  • 1962-1971 Director, Institute of Botany, Academia Sinica
  • Academician Hsian-Wen Li Lectureship

Academician Hsien-Wen Li was the first Director of the Institute of Botany (the predecessor of IPMB), Academia Sinica, in Taiwan. On July 4, 1976, he passed away due to heart attack. His dedication to the scientific community is infinitely memorable.

Academician Hsien-Wen Li was born in Jiangjin, Sichuan in 1902. In 1915, he was admitted to the Sichuan Provincial Recommended Student and entered Tsinghua School, where he was inspired by a statement made by Dr. Zhen-Yong Yu, "Breeding is a new knowledge", which planted the seeds of studying breeding in his mind. After graduating from Tsinghua School, he studied in the Department of Horticulture, Purdue University and gained research experience in agriculture. In 1926, Academician Li moved to Cornell University to study corn genetics and crop breeding under the tutelage of Dr. R.A. Emerson. In 1929, he obtained his Ph.D. with his doctoral dissertation "Research on the Inheritance of a Dwarfing Character in Maize". After returning to China, Academician Li held teaching positions in the Agricultural College of National Central University and the Department of Biology of Northeastern University. During the September 18th Incident in 1931, Academician Li left the Northeast and moved to Peiping, where he held a part-time teaching position in the College of Agriculture of Peiping University. In the following years, he held positions in the Agricultural College of Henan University, the National Wuhan University, and the Sichuan Rice and Wheat Improvement Institute. During this period, he conducted experiments on the hybridization of different pumpkin species, and research on wheat breeding, millet flowering, and improvement of rice varieties. He published dozens of academic papers, laying the foundation for subsequent agronomic research.

In 1945, he joined the Institute of Botany, Academia Sinica in Shanghai, where he continued to study cytogenetics, and was elected as the first academician of the Academia Sinica in 1948. At the end of 1948, he came to Taiwan to research sugarcane genetics and breeding on the farm of Taiwan Sugar Company, and successfully promoted new sugarcane varieties with high yield, high sugar content, and resistance to disease, wind, and salt stresses. He also established a sugarcane ratoon breeding system, and was credited as the "God of Sugarcane" by the farmers, and “Sugar Li” by the academic community.

After the government moved to Taiwan in 1949, the Academia Sinica was successively demobilized. In 1954, Academician Li became the preparatory Director of the Institute of Botany, Academia Sinica, and engaged in rice genetics and breeding research. At the same time, he recruited outstanding researchers and led the Institute’s development into a modern research institution.

In 1970, Academician Li completed "The autobiography of Li Hsien-Wen". In this book, he passed on to the new generation of young people his life experiences. In 1972, Academician Li retired from Academia Sinica, but he continued to devote himself to the Institute of Botany. Although most of the colleagues at IPMB have never seen Academician Li, the plaque that Academician Li presented to the institute with the idea of "thinking more and doing more, so that science can benefit mankind" is still hanging in the Li Hsien-Wen Memorial Hall of the institute, as an encouragement to us at IPMB. Academician Li's memorable legend remains with us forever.