Name: Yu San Wu, BSc, MSc
Convocation date: May 16, 1986
Discipline / contribution: agriculture ; plant breeding
Citation / biographical information:
Mr. Chancellor, on behalf of the Council and Senate, I had hoped to present to you Prof. Wu, Yu-san, former Head of the Plant Protection Department, Shenyang Agricultural College, Shenyang, China. Unfortunately, Prof. Wu has a heart condition and, much to his regret, his doctors will not permit him to travel.Degree received: Doctor of Laws
Prof. Wu was born in China in 1909. He obtained a B.Sc. degree from Nanking University in 1936. From 1936 to 1944 he held positions at three universities in China. In 1944 he accepted a postion as a plant pathologist with the National Agricultural Research Bureau. In 1948 he took what was then a relatively unusual step for Chinese scientists, and came to the University of Saskatchewan to do graduate work in the former Field Husbandry Department. He was awarded an MSc. degree in 1950, returned to China, and disappeared. Nobody at the University heard from him again until I received a letter from him in 1979, following the cultural revolution. Prof. Wu was then Professor and Head of the Plant Protection Department of Shenyang Agricultural College, where he had been since his return to China. In his letter, Prof. Wu informed me that some Chinese scientists, including some wheat breeders, would be visiting the University. It happened that when I arrived at the University in 1952, I had taken over the wheat material that Prof. Wu had studied for his thesis. The material involved hybrids between wheat and tall wheatgrass that were resistant to race 15B of stem rust. Race 15B was a serious threat to prairie wheat production in the 1950s. I was able to send back to Prof. Wu, seed of the lines developed from his hybrids.
In 1984, I visited China and Shenyang Agricultural College at the invitation of Prof. Wu. There I was able to observe his work at firsthand and to discuss it with other Chinese scientists. It was obvious that Prof. Wu is widely known and respected throughout China. In fact, he is recognized as China's authority on wheat stem rust. For many years, Prof. Wu was responsible for the stem rust survey work in China which involved collecting and identifying up to 2000 isolates each year. He developed a collection of over 3,000 spring wheat varieties which were studied for many characters and became a valuable source of parents for spring wheat breeding programs in northeastern China. Prof. Wu carried on a breeding program which resulted in the release of two important varieties. He published a number of scientific papers and was the co-author of a book on wheat diseases.
During the 10 years or so of the cultural revolution, Chinese universities were closed and most students and staff were forced to do manual labor in the countryside. Prof. Wu was allowed to remain in Shenyang but was forced to become a street sweeper. He has a remarkable record of achievement under very difficult conditions. Because of the disruption caused by the cultural revolution, there is a large gap in the roster of trained scientists in China. In 1984, at the age of 75, Prof. Wu was still active in his department and college.
Dr. Bryan L. Harvey, the head of the Department of Crop Science and Plant Ecology, will be in China in August and we are in the process of arranging for a presentation to be made to Prof. Wu, in Shenyang.
Mr. Chancellor, I ask that you confer on Prof. Wu, Yu-san the degree of Doctor of Laws, honoris causa, in absentia.
Degree presented by: Doug Knott
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