Gao Zhentong, born in November, 1928, is a professor in the School of Aeronautic Science and Engineering at Beihang University and a member of Chinese Academy of Sciences. He was the first Beihang Moral Achievement and Talent Cultivation Award winner in 2017.
Ever since Gao Zhentong was young, he profoundly understood how hard Chinese people had gone through for hundreds of years. He even experienced the fear and restlessness from Japanese soldiers when studying in the Second Primary School affiliated to Beijing Normal University. The humiliation of subjugation inspired his patriotism and he began to hold the expectation that China could have the capacity of producing its own aircraft and artillery to defend against enemies. It was in that period that the long-cherished wish to learn aeronautics and devote himself to the country sprouted. In September 1946, Gao Zhentong was enrolled in Peiyang University (now known as Tianjin University) and majored in Aeronautics. Despite all difficulties, he persisted and finally graduated in 1950. Later, he chose to work in Tshinghua University. When the government reconstructed its departments and established Beijing Institute of Aeronautics (now known as Beihang University) in 1952, the first aviation college in China, Gao Zhentong then participated in the construction of Beihang University.
Since the first day of its establishment, Beihang University has become an essential place for Gao Zhentong. Despite tough conditions, he regarded the laboratory as his home and devoted himself to the curriculum design. Gao Zhentong subsequently developed the first self-designed and self-manufactured photoelastic device and the first resistance strain gauge in China. In 1956, Gao Zhentong was awarded Beijing Youth Activist for Socialist Construction.
As a teacher, Gao Zhentong profoundly affected students with his charming personality and noble character in teaching, scientific research and daily life to remind them of the spirit of patriotism and dedication. He laid emphasis on cultivating students’ academic ability, led his students to stand at the research frontier, encouraged them to innovate and inspired their sense of responsibility so as to make contributions to the country. Gao Zhentong has cultivated more than 40 postgraduates, doctoral students and postdocs, many of whom have become leading figures in their research fields.
Gao Zhentong has won many national honors in the field of education, such as National Excellent Teaching Achievement Award. In 1958, he participated in Beihang’s research on fatigue experiment of aircraft cabin simulation as one of the leading figures and first proposed the reliability theory of aircraft’s structural life determination and life extension in accordance with China’s national conditions, which was highly praised by the Air Force Technical Equipment Reliability Office.
Gao Zhentong has made great achievements in scientific research. In the mid-1970s, he spent 10 years completing a test system project of fatigue and fracture behavior of typical aircraft materials, which not only provided the basic data for life determination and extension and structural reliability design of aircrafts in China, but more importantly, cultivated a group of scholars and experts in the field of structural fatigue. During this period, he proposed a series of analyses based on probability and statistical theory, such as fatigue test design and data processing, which were listed in standards issued by the Ministry of Aviation (HB/Z112-86). Meanwhile, he published Fatigue Property Test and Applied Statistics in Fatigue. All his achievements contributed to forming a complete fatigue statistics discipline and guiding the fatigue reliability research in China.
His research has earned him many honors such as National Prize for Progress in Science and Technology, State Technological Invention Award and other provincial or ministry-level awards. He completed six monographs, in which Fatigue Statistics and Fatigue Reliability were widely acclaimed, and published over 100 papers in total. He was awarded the title of “Advanced Scientific and Technological Worker of National Colleges and Universities” in 1990, and won the Ho Leung Ho Lee Prize for Progress in Science and Technology in 1999.
The branch discipline of “Fatigue Statistics” established by Gao Zhentong not only guides the domestic development of fatigue reliability, but also has been widely recognized by international academic circles. Early in 1985, he established a cooperative relationship with the University of Milan in Italy, and jointly studied the research of “residual stiffness and residual strength of composites” with Professor Giavotto, the president of the Italian Aeronautical Society. His original research results of fatigue statistics helped Chrysler Corporation of the United States to establish a course on vehicle development and formulate the book Reliability Guide for Structural Components and Systems implemented throughout the whole company.
Besides, Gao Zhentong has always been concerned about charity. According to incomplete statistics, Prof. Gao has donated more 2 million yuan to the society over the past thirty years. Moreover, in 2018, the School of Aeronautic Science and Engineering of Beihang University established the “Gao Zhentong Fund” to reward prominent young talents from domestic universities and colleges who made outstanding contributions to the field of aeronautics and astronautics, so as to promote the cultivation of innovative talents of related fields in China and the development of the school in Beihang University. Due to his outstanding contributions to Beihang University and the whole society, Gao Zhentong has received numerous awards, such as the first “Touching Beihang Person” in 2006, “Outstanding Communist Party Member of Beihang University” in both 2003 and 2005, and “Chinese Charity Person” in 2007.
Over the past 65 years, Mr. Gao Zhentong has devoted himself to the field of education and scientific research and has cultivated a large number of excellent talents. As a teacher and an outstanding Communist Party member, Mr. Gao sets an example for all students and Party members. He is truly a “structural fatigue expert who never gets fatigued for the country and the people”.