Professor Shiu-Ying Hu, Emeritus Senior Research Fellow of the Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University, passed away in Hong Kong on May 22 at age 102. An eminent scholar and plant taxonomist, Professor Hu was also a beloved teacher who served as Honorary Professor of Chinese Medicine at the Chinese University of Hong Kong and Senior College Tutor of Chung Chi College. Over her long career, she collected and identified as many as 185,000 plant specimens, published more than 160 papers, and was an internationally-recognized authority on Ilex (hollies), Hemerocaulis (daylilies), Paulownia, Compositae (daisies), and Orchidaceae (orchids).
Born in China, Professor Hu graduated from Ginling College in Nanking in 1933 and received her master’s degree from Lingnan University in 1937. In 1949, she became the first Chinese female to obtain a doctoral degree in botany at Harvard, and worked as an herbarium assistant at the Arboretum. Named a research assistant by Arboretum Director Richard Howard in 1953, Professor Hu devoted herself full time for the next four years to the Flora of China Project. In 1968, Professor Hu took up the position as Senior Lecturer in the Department of Biology of Chung Chi College and continued her work investigating the botanical diversity of Hong Kong. She was appointed Advisor to the Sunyatsen Botanical Garden in Nanjing, Honorary Professor of South China Agriculture University in Guangzhou, Advisor to the Fairy Lake Botanical Garden in Shenzhen, and Honorary Professor of Chinese Medicine at the Chinese University of Hong Kong in 1999.
Though she officially retired from her appointment at the Arboretum in 1976, Professor Hu continued to be very active in plant research and the study of taxonomy well into her tenth decade. She made tremendous contributions to the promotion of botany at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, including organizing an herbarium that supports scientific study at a number of China’s universities and research institutes. Professor Hu was also instrumental in the development of the School of Chinese Medicine at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, and her book An Enumeration of Chinese Meteria Medica has greatly influenced the global practitioners of Chinese medicine since its first appearance in 1980. Astonishingly, a span of nearly 50 years separates the publication of two of her major works, The Flora of China, Family 153, Malvaceae (1955) and Food Plants of China (2003).
In 1992, the Holly Society of America established The Shiu-Ying Hu Award to honor Professor Hu for her lifetime study of the genus Ilex, and named her the award’s first recipient. Professor Hu was also the first recipient of the American Botanical Council Lifetime Achievement Award in 2008. Funeral services will be held on June 15 in Hong Kong, and a memorial service is planned for October 2012 at the Chapel of Chung Chi College at the Chinese University of Hong Kong.