Shiu-Ying Hu

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Shiu-Ying Hu
Born(1910-02-22)22 February 1910
Died22 May 2012(2012-05-22) (aged 102)
Alma materGinling College
Lingnan University, Guangzhou
Harvard University
Scientific career
InstitutionsWest China Union University
Harvard University
Chung Chi College
InfluencesAlbert Steward

Shiu-Ying Hu, BBS (Chinese: 胡秀英; 22 February 1910 – 22 May 2012), or Hu Xiuying, was a Chinese botanist. She was an expert in the plant genera of Ilex (Aquifoliaceae), Hemerocallis (Amaryllidaceae), and Panax (Araliaceae). She studied the families Orchidaceae, Compositae, and Malvaceae, and Chinese medicinal herbs and food plants.[1] She was given the nickname "Holly Hu" by her colleagues for her extensive work with holly plants.[2]


Hu was born in 1910 to a farm family in a Chinese village near the city of Xuzhou in Jiangsu province. She received her B.Sc. in Biology from Ginling Women's College (now part of Nanjing Normal University) and M.Sc. in Biology from Lingnan University (now part of Sun Yat-sen University). In 1946 Hu traveled to the United States to pursue a Ph.D. in Botany at Radcliffe College. Her supervisor was Elmer Drew Merrill. In 1949 she became the first Chinese woman to receive a doctoral degree in Botany from Harvard University.[1][3][2]

After earning her Ph.D., Hu worked as a research botanist at the Arnold Arboretum. In 1968 she took the post of Senior Lecturer in the Department of Biology at CUHK, which Hu held until her retirement in 1975. She continued to carry out research during her retirement both at the CUHK Herbarium and the Harvard University Herbaria. Over the course of her career she produced over 160 academic treatises, collected over 30,000 specimens, and published the 800-page encyclopedia Food Plants of China.[1][4]


On 22 May 2012, Hu died at the age of 102 from kidney failure caused by pneumonia at the Prince of Wales Hospital in Hong Kong.[2][4]

Tree Song[edit]

John Williams attributes his piece Tree Song for Violin and Orchestra in a large part to Hu. The first movement of the piece is entitled "Dr. Hu and the Meta-Sequoia".[3] He described the following experience in his note for the premiere in 2000:

During our stroll we casually paused in front of a large tree that I hadn't looked at closely enough to recognize immediately. Pointing to the tree, Dr. Hu explained that this tree was the oldest metasequoia in North America and that she had planted it in the late 1940s using seeds she had brought with her from China. I was thunderstruck by this coincidence, and when I told her of “my” metasequoia in the Public Garden she informed me that the younger tree I loved so much was also one of her children.[5]

Awards and recognition[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d "Prof. S.Y. Hu". 22 May 2012. Retrieved 2 June 2012.
  2. ^ a b c "University to honour its botanist 'Holly Hu'". 24 May 2012. Archived from the original on 25 May 2012. Retrieved 2 June 2012.
  3. ^ a b "From China to Radcliffe and Return". 9 February 2012. Retrieved 2 June 2012.
  4. ^ a b Food Plants of China; accessed 26 January 2015.
  5. ^ "Tree Song for Violin and Orchestra". Retrieved 26 January 2015.
  6. ^ "Website Template". Retrieved 2012-06-02.
  7. ^ IPNI.  S.Y.Hu.

External links[edit]