Chinese symbols mark Huang’s sojourn in UK
A framed golden embroidery of a dragon and a phoenix — traditional Chinese symbols — and a green tea tin are the two living memories of a late Chinese scientist that are still at his old office in the United Kingdom.
Huang Danian, known for his expertise in deep-Earth exploration technology, studied and worked in England for more than 18 years before returning to China in 2009.
He died of bile duct cancer in January.
It was more than seven years ago that Huang worked together with his colleagues at ARK CLS, a Bedfordshire-based geophysical software engineering company, before returning to China to serve the country, but the deep impression he left on his workmates did not fade.
“Danian’s attitude to research was second to none. He would focus on what needed to be done, take all the resources he could find, and come up with some very good research, much better than anyone else I’ve come across,” says Adrian Bennetton, managing director of ARK CLS.
According to Bennetton, the work Huang did was very advanced as he was providing the research to help an outsourced project develop a new instrument which was very sophisticated and ahead of its time.
“It was far advanced than anything else available within the industry,” he says.
Judith Blood, office manager at ARK CLS, expresses her shock and her condolence at Huang’s death, saying it was a pleasant experience to know Huang. She used to help Huang with his English during his sixmonth in the office.
“He was great with writing and reading, but there was still a bit we could try to do with the spoken English,” Blood says, adding “I was pleased to see a bit of change in his English when he left the company.”
In 2008, China launched the Thousand Talents program, a national recruitment program for global top talent, encouraging overseas Chinese and foreign professionals to work in China.
Attracted by the government’s initiative, Huang returned to China and worked as chief scientist of a branch of China’s biggest deep-Earth exploration program, aiming to install hightech cameras on aircraft, ships and satellites that enable them to see through the Earth’s crust without physically penetrating it.
Investment in his branch of the program has reached more than 300 million yuan ($44 million).
Danian’s attitude to research was second to none. He would focus on what needed to be done ...”
Adrian Bennetton, managing director, ARK CLS
Admitting that he did not understand the scale of Huang’s involvement with projects in China initially, Bennetton says he was amazed when he found out this was a key project.
“I was very pleased for Danian, because he had contributed so much to the companies he’d worked for in the UK, and I knew he would do extremely well within the new position back in China,” he adds.
Bennetton was not the only co-worker who had good memories of Danian.
Tonny Benn, who worked with Huang at ARK CLS, but knew him since 2001 when they shared the office space, says: “He was a very fine fellow, highly intelligent, very friendly and easy to get along with.”
One recollection Benn has about Huang is his outstanding mathematic skills.
“I remember him being given one day several sheets of very complex mathematics to do with gravity and magnetic work, and he was asked whether he understood it. Huang looked down through many equations on the sheets and said ‘yes I can understand that’. I was very impressed that someone could understand such complex mathematics just by looking briefly,” Benn says.
In fact, Huang’s talent in mathematics was spotted long before by his supervisor, Kathryn Whaler, when he studied for his PhD at Britain’s Leeds University.
Whaler says: “Danian was very bright, energetic and very skilled at mathematics. He was really interested in using pattern recognition techniques and really clever mathematical methods for trying to understand the potential fields.”
As a result, Huang did his doctoral thesis on the “enhancement of automatic interpretation techniques for recognizing potential field sources”, and finished the top of his class.
As a student, Whaler recounts, Huang was both liked and respected.
“He just really got on with things and made the most of his opportunities. He talked to a vast number of people and I am sure all the other staff in the department remember him. He just was great,” she adds.