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Let their scientific spirit live on: China Daily editorial | Updated: 2021-05-23 19:43
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File photo taken in 1981 shows Yuan Longping selecting hybrid rice specimens for a lecture. [Photo/Xinhua]

The national outpouring of grief at the death of two legendary academicians over the weekend, as if people had lost beloved members of their own families, offers much food for thought.

At 1:02 pm on Saturday, liver surgeon Wu Mengchao, 99, died in Shanghai. He is known as the founder of hepatobiliary surgery in the country and was the teacher of roughly 80 percent of the nation's experts and doctors specializing in liver surgery today. Wu operated on thousands of patients, and saved at least 16,000 lives.

Five minutes later, with family members humming his favorite songs to him beside his sickbed in Changsha, Hunan province, agricultural scientist Yuan Longping died at the age of 91. He was known as the father of hybrid rice who helped lift the nation out of hunger.

With their dedication to science and commitment to the people, the two devoted their lives to saving lives and improving people's livelihoods. Together with generations of their students, they not only made a big difference to the lives of the Chinese people, but also many living in other developing and least-developed countries.

What distinguishes Wu and Yuan aside from their achievements, which were made under very difficult conditions, is their shared attachment to the people. The public's spontaneous outpouring of grief at their deaths, which has been rare in the country for decades, shows how much their down-to-earth dedication to improving people's lives touched hearts throughout the country.

Undated file photo shows a portrait of Wu Mengchao. [Photo/Xinhua]

Insisting that medical science is humanity, Wu would lose his temper in operating rooms even in his 90s when his assistants did not prescribe the medicines with the best cost-performance to help patients save money.

Working in paddy fields for decades, Yuan's lifelong dream was always to enable the Chinese people to fill their own bowls with rice. He was still inquiring about his experimental fields and the weather conditions during the last few days of his life.

Yuan and Wu are just two representatives of the large numbers of scientific workers that have devoted their lives to their research, endowing the country's people-centered development principle with more practical meaning.

The country needs more scientists to inherit and carry forward the spirit they embodied.

Even those in other walks of life can draw inspiration from the two academicians' commitment to their dreams, care for the people, and indifference to material enjoyment, so as to make the best of what life grants for themselves and others.

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