Birthplace: Hangzhou, China
Location of death: Beijing, China
Cause of death: unspecified
Race or Ethnicity: Asian
Sexual orientation: Straight
Executive summary: Founder of Chinese space program
Military service: US Army Air Corps (Col.)
Tsien Hsue-shen is regarded as the father of modern Chinese rocketry. He was born in China but came to America as a young man. He studied under Theodore von Kármán, and became one of America's foremost experts on rockets and high-speed flight theory, and a co-founder of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. In the preliminary planning for what became America's space program, he met countless times with US military officials and scientists, and at the end of World War II he was deeply involved in Project Lusty (from Luftwaffe Secret Technology), which had Tsien entering fallen Germany with American troops to secure key documents and personnel from the German aircraft and rocketry programs.
In 1949 Tsien applied for US citizenship, but in the American political atmosphere of McCarthyism, a top-level Chinese scientist was viewed with increasing suspicion. On 6 June 1950 federal agents came to Tsien's home and accused him of spying for the Red Chinese. Tsien and his colleagues protested that the allegations were nonsense, and indeed, the most damning evidence against him -- purportedly a list of security codes -- turned out to be a table of logarithms written in Chinese. No substantial evidence against Tsien was ever presented, but his security clearances were immediately revoked, and he was held under virtual house arrest for more than five years.
He was deported to China in 1955, without any of his scientific papers or books. There he resumed his career, working among scientists whose command of technology was years behind American scientists, although by then -- after years out of touch with scientific advances -- Tsien's own expertise was also out of date. Given a position of authority in Chinese science, he sent young Chinese scientists to study at the best universities in Russia, and oversaw the rapid development of electronics, machinery, and metallurgical industries in an otherwise largely agrarian society. Under Tsien's leadership the Chinese developed the R-2 missile (1958), DF-1 missile (early 1960s), and CZ/DF-5 intercontinental ballistic missile (1971). In 1968 he established China's Space Flight Medical Research Center, beginning China's manned space flight program. In 1970 a Tsien-developed rocket put China's first satellite into earth orbit, and in 1978 his Tsien Spaceplane entered service. He is a first cousin, once removed, of Nobel laureate Roger Y. Tsien.
Wife: Tsiang Ying (two children)
University: BS, National Chiao Tung University (1934)
University: BS, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (1936)
University: PhD, California Institute of Technology (1939)
Teacher: California Institute of Technology (1939-50)
Professor: University of Science & Technology of China (1958-91)
Boxer Rebellion Scholarship
Chinese Academy of Sciences
Chinese Academy of Engineering
Deported from United States (1955)
Asteroid Namesake 3763 Qianxuesen
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