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Zhou Youguang
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    (January 13, 1906-January 14, 2017)
    Born in Changzhou, China
    Birth name was Zhao Yaoping
    Economist and banker turned linguist and author
    US representative of Sin Hua Trust and Savings Bank (1946-49)
    Economics professor at Fudan University in Shanghai (1949-55)
    Headed the committee that developed the Pinyin system for writing Mandarin Chinese using the Latin alphabet (1955-58)
    Known as ‘the father of Pinyin’
    Member of the team that translated the Encyclopedia Britannica into Mandarin (1985)
    Wrote over 40 books
    During his time in the US, he twice met Albert Einstein, but noted, ‘I didn’t understand relativity at all. So we just chatted about everyday things.’.
    The replacement of earlier Romanization systems by Pinyin required a lot of spelling changes in the West, such as Peking becoming Beijing and Mao Tse-tung becoming Mao Zedong.
    Several of his books were banned in his native China.
    His criticism of the government resulted in his remaining little-known in China. (With, for example, the official celebration of Pinyin’s 50th anniversary largely failing to mention the ‘father of Pinyin.’)
    Pinyin helped improve the literacy rate in China from around 20% to over 90%.
    Like many other intellectuals, he was sent to a labor camp in the countryside for ‘re-education’ during the Cultural Revolution (1969-72).
    He was married to Zhang Yunhe for 69 years until her death.
    He was an outspoken critic of the Communist government and described as ‘China’s oldest dissenter.’
    He is one of the few super-centenarians (people who lived for 110+ years) with a claim to fame other than their age.

Credit: C. Fishel

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