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Rigorous in study and honest in behaving, said Zhang Mingtao.

Zhang Mingtao’s motto

There are many talents in the Department of Electrical Engineering of Tsinghua University. Zhang Mingtao is one of them. He is a famous scholar and educator in the field of electrical engineering in China, an academician of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, and the former dean of the Department of Electrical Engineering of Tsinghua University.

Zhang Mingtao (July 23, 1907 — January 9, 1985)

Zhang Mingtao was born on July 23, 1907, in a merchant family outside the Qianmen Street of Beijing. His ancestral home is in Yin County, Ningbo, Zhejiang Province, and his family had been farming for generations. He entered the primary school affiliated to Beijing Normal University when he was 6 years old. After graduating from primary school at the age of 12, he went to Shanghai for another year of primary school, and then was admitted to the secondary school affiliated to Saint John’s College. In 1924, after graduating from middle school, Zhang Mingtao applied to Tsinghua University, but was not admitted. Young and vigorous, he sworn: “I can’t be a student of Tsinghua University now, but I will definitely become a professor of Tsinghua University in the future.”

Therefore, Zhang Mingtao chose to study in Europe. He first went to France and then to the UK to study electrical engineering at Armstrong College at Newcastle University.

In 1927, Zhang Mingtao graduated with a bachelor’s degree in engineering science. Then he worked as an intern in an electrical company in Manchester. There he worked at daytime and studied at night at the evening graduate department of the University of Manchester, and completed his master’s degree in 1929. He came to Lincoln and worked as an intern in a diesel engine factory, while preparing for his Ph.D. study. The following year, his father became seriously ill, and Zhang Mingtao resigned and returned to China. After returning to China, he worked as an associate professor in the Department of Electrical Engineering, Zhejiang University, Hangzhou. A year later, he left school and worked as an engineer at the “Asian Electric Company” in Shanghai, specializing in batteries.

Zhang Mingtao, the young man studying in the UK

In 1932, 25-year-old Zhang Mingtao was invited by Gu Yuxiu, Dean of the School of Engineering of Tsinghua University, to serve as a full professor at Tsinghua University and participated in the preparation of the Department of Electrical Engineering.

In 1934, Zhang Mingtao, Gu Yuxiu and other colleagues initiated the establishment of the “Chinese Society of Electrical Engineers” and became the first group of members of the society.

During his teaching at Tsinghua University, Zhang Mingtao not only systematically taught the theory of electrical machinery and the latest research results, but also introduced the advanced technology of electrical machinery manufacturing to the domestic electrical machinery industry. For a while, he focused on the books on motor design, insulation and structure, etc. written by Michael Liwschitz-Garik (1883-1959), an engineer of the world most advanced German company Siemens at that time.

From 1935 to 1936, with the recommendation from Li Yurong, Norbert Wiener (1894-1964), a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), who returned to China after graduating from MIT and worked in the Department of Electrical Engineering of Tsinghua University, received the invitation of Mei Yiqi, President of Tsinghua University, and Xiong Qinglai, Dean of the Department of Mathematics, and came to Tsinghua University as a visiting professor of the Department of Mathematics and the Department of Electrical Engineering. During this period, Zhang Mingtao and Weiner often had personal contacts and academic exchanges.

Teachers at the initial stage of the Department of Electrical Engineering of Tsinghua University (1936)

From left at the back row: Zhang Sihou, Fan Chongwu, Shen Shangxian, Xu Fan, Lou Erkang, Zhu Cengshang, Yun Jun

From left at the front row: Zhao Youmin, Li Yurong, Gu Yuxiu, Norbert Wiener, Ren Zhigong, Ni Jun, Zhang Mingtao

Zhang Mingtao (the first from right at the front row)

After the outbreak of the Anti-Japanese War in 1937, Zhang Mingtao moved south with Tsinghua University to Kunming, where he taught at Southwest Associated University. In 1940, 32-year-old Zhang Mingtao went back to Peiping to visit his elderly mother and married Ms. Jiang Juanchang.

From 1942 to 1945, Zhang Mingtao served as the Dean of the Department of Electrical Engineering at the Southwest Associated University. When he was teaching at Southwest Associated University, he had studied electrical railways and wrote the paper “A Discussion on China’s Electrical Railways”. Zhang Mingtao is famous for his particular attention to blackboard writing in his lectures. At that time, some students who hadn’t chosen his class would often go to the classroom after class to appreciate the blackboard writing he left.

After the victory of the Anti-Japanese War in 1945, Zhang Mingtao returned to the industrial world and worked for Shanghai Bus Company until 1948.

From 1949, Zhang Mingtao returned to the Department of Electrical Engineering of Tsinghua University again and served as the Dean of the Department. He was very responsible during this period and was unwavering in his commitment to improving the science and teaching level of the faculty. He encouraged everyone to “resolutely conquer the fortress of science and master the most updated technology”. “Improving our existing faculty level is a key issue in our teaching work,” he said.

Zhang Mingtao once said to young teachers: “If you want to master a certain knowledge, the best way is to teach that course.” He is knowledgeable and has taught more than a dozen courses at Tsinghua University, including Principles of Electrical Engineering, Differential Equations, DC Motors, AC Motors, Power Transmission, Power Distribution Engineering, Power Plants, Electromagnetic Measurement, Motor Design and Manufacturing, and Motor Electromagnetic Fields. In his teaching career, Zhang Mingtao attached great importance to the construction of China’s own teaching materials. In the 1950s, he participated in the translation of the textbooks “Electric Machinery” and “Electric Machine Structure” from the Soviet Union. In 1964, China’s first textbook “Electrical Mechanics” (Volume 1 and 2) edited by him was officially published by Science Press.

In addition to attaching importance to theoretical teaching, Mr. Zhang also attaches great importance to cultivating students’ practical abilities. He believes that “you can't become a real engineer if you only know the principle but don’t know how to operate it.” Therefore, after teaching the motor design course, he always asks students to design and participate in the manufacture of motors that can be used in production.

In 1952, Zhang Mingtao joined the China Democratic League and later served as a member of the Beijing Municipal Committee of the China Democratic League, and a member of the Fourth, Fifth and Sixth National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference.

In 1955, Zhang Mingtao was elected as a member (i.e. academician) of the Department of Technology and Science of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, and later served as a standing committee member, head of the Electrical Engineering Group of the Department of Technology and Science and a member of the Academic Committee of the Institute of Mechanical and Electrical Engineering. In the 1950s, he also served as the vice chairman of the Chinese Society of Electrical Engineering, and a member of the Tsinghua University Council and Academic Committee. In terms of academic work, he served as the editor-in-chief of the “Journal of Natural Science” (electrician, radio and automatic control versions) of the Ministry of Higher Education.

In 1964, Zhang Mingtao and his colleagues made a comprehensive summary and conclusion of their research results on the electromagnetic field theory of electric machines, and compiled a handout “Electromagnetic Field of Electric Machines” for the graduate course. Unfortunately, the book had not been published, and some manuscripts were burnt to the ground during the “Cultural Revolution”. Next, we can imagine how this scholar who had studied in the UK was treated by the rough fate.

In 1976, Zhang Mingtao, who was nearly old, got into a wheelchair. In 1979, Zhang Mingtao and his assistant, Associate Professor Yu Xinchang, translated B. Heller and V. Hamata’s famous book “Harmonic Field Effects in Induction Machines” into Chinese “Effects of Harmonic Magnetic Fields in Asynchronous Motors”. This book was the first monograph in this field in the world. The author, Professor Heller, was the director of the Institute of Electrical Engineering of the Czechoslovak Academy of Sciences at the time. In 1956, Zhang Mingtao met Professor Heller during his visit to the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, and discussed with him about the theoretical problem of harmonic magnetic fields in asynchronous motors. In the process of translation, Zhang Mingtao made a careful and rigorous derivation of all the formulas in the whole book, and corrected many errors and omissions.

Zhang Mingtao, together with his students, spent a lot of time refining the postgraduate textbook “Electromagnetic Fields of Electric Machines” compiled in that year. He said: “I don't have much time, but I still have a lot of things to do. If I can’t leave my knowledge to future generations, it will be a lifelong regret.” The 500,000-Chinese character book was finally refined and delivered to print. However, it is a pity that on January 9, 1985, 78-year-old Zhang Mingtao died of illness, unable to see the publication of his book.

Zhang Mingtao’s family (1960s)

Zhang Mingtao, known as the “Giant of Motor Science”, has been humble and indifferent to fame and fortune all his life. He is unpretentious and kind-hearted and is a modest gentleman, with a slow speech and demeanor. It is said that he never learned to ride a bicycle in his life. In addition, he had no other hobbies in his life except books, Mudan cigarette and Longjing tea,.

Zhang Mingtao’s wife Jiang Juanchang lived healthily to the age of 97 and died without a disease. She once recalled that Zhang Mingtao was always humble when encountering good things. In the early 1950s, when Zhang Mingtao was rated as a first-class professor, he learned that Zhao Fangxiong (1908-1996) of the Department of Mathematics was rated as a second-level professor, he went to President Jiang Nanxiang’s office and asked the president to demoted his title to the second-level. This story reached the ears of Premier Zhou Enlai. The Prime Minister said that professor ratings are carried out nationwide and cannot be changed arbitrarily. Later, when the Academy of Sciences selected the members, it was the same. Zhang Mingtao said to the university leaders that he was not qualified. The leader said that this was selected by the Academy of Sciences nationwide, and Tsinghua University had no right to modify it, so Zhang Mingtao have to give up.

In 1992, Zhu Rongji, the former vice premier of the State Council, mentioned in his congratulatory speech for the 60th anniversary of the establishment of the Department of Electrical Engineering of Tsinghua University that, Zhang Mingtao once said to Zhu Rongji and other students: “When you come to Tsinghua, you must learn how to learn, and learn how to be a man. A young man must first learn how to be a man before he learn how to study.”

Chen Guanrong | Author

Chair Professor of Department of Electrical Engineering, City University of Hong Kong, Director of Complexity and Complex Network Research Center

Academician of the Academy of Europe, IEE Life Fellow, CI Scientist

Editor-in-chief of Journal of Bifurcation and Chaos

Engaged in non-linear systems and complex network for many years, with articles cited for more than 100,000 times

Original title: “Zhang Mingtao, Giant of Motor Science | By Chen Guanrong”

This article is reproduced from thepaper.cn

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