Top Stanford physicist Shoucheng Zhang dies
Well-known Stanford University physicist and entrepreneur Shoucheng Zhang has died at the age of 55.
The death of the prominent Chinese-American scientist was confirmed in a Wednesday email sent on behalf of Danhua Capital, the venture capital company he helped start.
“It’s with a heavy heart that we share with you the sudden passing of our beloved friend, the founding chairman, professor Shoucheng Zhang, who passed away on Dec 1,” the email said. No cause of death was given, but media reports cited family members as saying he had been battling depression.
The award-winning physicist was important in academic and hightech innovation circles.
In 2013, Zhang established Danhua Capital with Stanford doctoral candidate Gu Anjia, hoping to nurture entrepreneurs in the United States, empower innovation and strengthen cross-border technology and market integration.
He supervised many high-tech competitions in Silicon Valley, mentored early-stage startups and was a keynote speaker at high-level technology exchanges.
“He has been an invaluable asset, not only in academics but also in tech fields,” said Tom Zhang, a San Jose-based investor and industry observer. “We have lost a brilliant mind and soul.”
A tenured professor in physics, applied physics and electrical engineering at the prominent California university, Zhang also was an academician of the American Academy of Sciences, a foreign academician at the Chinese Academy of Sciences and a professor in the Institute for Advanced Study at Tsinghua University.
Danhua officials said the company would continue operating.
“Under Zhang’s leadership, we have formed a strong and cohesive team,” the email said. “We will carry out his unfulfilled desires and stay the course to continue his efforts, including pushing forward innovation and entrepreneurship.”
A Shanghai native, Zhang entered Shanghai-based Fudan University in 1978 at the age of 15, majoring in theoretical physics. He was chosen for a merit-based scholarship to Germany, where he received his bachelor’s degree in 1983 from Free University of Berlin. In 1987, he received his doctorate from State University of New York at Stony Brook, with Nobel laureate Chen-Ning Yang as his mentor.
After joining Stanford, Zhang gained recognition for spearheading pioneering research on the intrinsic spin of the electron and its magnetic properties, and on topological insulators.
Among the honors he received were the Guggenheim Fellowship in 2007, the Humboldt Research Award in 2009, the EPS CMD Europhysics Prize in 2010, the Oliver E. Buckley Condensed Matter Prize by the American Physical Society in 2011 and the Dirac Prize in 2012. In 2013, he and renowned physicist Stephen Hawking were awarded the Physics Frontiers Prize. In addition, he was the Thomson Reuters Citation Laureate in 2014 and won the Benjamin Franklin Medal in 2015.
In an interview with China Daily, Zhang attributed his academic achievements to Stanford, which he called his source of happiness.