Van C. Mow

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Van C. Mow (毛昭憲)
Professor Van C. Mow's Portait for Wiki.jpg
Born (1939-01-10) January 10, 1939 (age 80)
ResidenceUnited States
NationalityUnited States
Alma materRensselaer Polytechnic Institute
Known forCartilage, Biomechanics
Scientific career
FieldsBiomedical Engineering
InstitutionsColumbia University
Doctoral studentsKyriacos A. Athanasiou, Lori Ann Setton

Van C. Mow (Traditional Chinese: 毛昭憲; born January 10, 1939) is a Chinese-born-American bioengineer, known as one of the earliest researchers in the field of biomechanics.[citation needed]

Van C. Mow has published over 315 full-length peer-reviewed, archival papers and book chapters, has delivered over 450 podium presentations at bioengineering meetings, and he has delivered over 450 invited seminars, keynote, plenary and distinguished named lectures in orthopaedic biomechanics. According to Google Scholar, his papers have been cited over 33,500 times, and he has an h-index of 100 as of October 5, 2015.[1]

His work on the biphasic and triphasic theories for soft-hydrated and charged biological tissues, coauthored with W.M. Lai,[2] are two of the most highly cited biomechanics papers in the world.[3][4]

Among Mow's many activities, he was the first PhD to be elected President of the Orthopaedic Research Society and from 2000 to 2011 was the founding chair of the Department of Biomedical Engineering at Columbia University.


Youth, his father Mow Pang Tzu, and education[edit]

Mow's ancestral hometown is Ngai Tou, a suburb of Ningbo, in the county of Fenghua in Zhejiang Province. He was born in Chengdu, Sichuan Province in 1939 during the 2nd Sino-Japanese War, just prior of World War II, as 5th of 6 brothers.

His father Mow Pang Tzu, (毛邦初), was a nephew of Mao Fumei, the first wife of Chiang Kai-shek, the leader of the Republic of China between 1928 and 1975.[5] Mow Pang Tzu graduated from the 3rd class of China’s Whampoa Military Academy in 1927 and later became Lt. General of the Republic of China Air Force.[6][7] In the late 30th and early 40th, General Mow was largely responsible for bringing Captain Chennault, the father of the Flying Tigers, to China.[8] In addition, he was instrumental in establishing the Burma-China airlift (typically referred to as "The Hump").[9][10][11] In 1942, General Mow was assigned to the U.S. to establish the Chinese Air Force Office in Washington, DC. In August 1945, he was awarded the U.S. Legion of Merit by President Harry Truman, for "exceptionally meritorious conduct in the performance of outstanding services to the Government of the United States from February 1943 to August 1945."[12] In 1949 his wife, Wong Ay Chuan, and five of his six sons (Van, Maurice, Donald, Harry and William) joined General Mow in Washington, DC, where they lived in a diplomatic residence on 32nd Street, N.W.[13][14]

In the early fifties, General Mow became entangled in an embezzlement scandal that was covered in great detail in major US and Chinese newspapers[6] and even let to a congressional hearing.[15] The Chiang Kai-shek government of the Republic of China alleged that General Mow failed to account for $19,440,000[16] (equivalent to about $180,000,000 in 2015). After a protracted legal battle, during which General Mow fled to Mexico[7][17][18][19] and shared a "luxury" prison cell with the Leon Trotsky assassin Ramón Mercader,[20][21][22] the US Appeals Court in DC upheld a lower-court ruling that General Mow owed the Republic of China $6,368,503 plus interest and costs.[23][24][25] A settlement was reached in 1958,[26][27][28] and General Mow eventually returned to the US in the mid-sixties.[29] A detailed account of these events aired on Chinese TV in May 2015.[30]

Growing up under difficult circumstances, which he detailed in a 2005 lecture,[31] Mow managed to obtain a bachelor's degree in aeronautical engineering from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) in 1962. After graduation, Mow decided to pursue a Ph.D. degree at Rensselaer in applied mechanics and applied mathematics. In his thesis he developed a perturbation mathematical method to predict secondary vortex flows in polymeric fluids. Five Mow brothers (Van, Maurice, Donald, Harry and William, founder of Bugle Boy Industries, a clothing manufacturer) received a total of 3 Ph.D. degrees in mechanics and applied mathematics, one bachelor's degree each in architecture and electrical engineering from RPI.[32]

Further career[edit]

Following his doctoral graduation in 1966, Mow went on for a postdoctoral fellowship in applied mathematics at the Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences at New York University with Joseph B. Keller. One year later, he joined the Applied Mechanics and Mathematics Group at Bell Labs working on computer programs for U.S. sonar detection of submarines off the East Coast of America. He returned to RPI in 1969 as Associate Professor of Applied Mechanics. In 1976, he was promoted to the rank of Professor, and received a visiting scientist position at the Skeletal Research Laboratory of Harvard Medical School with Melvin J. Glimcher. The following year, to broaden his prospective, Mow received the coveted NATO Senior Postdoctoral Fellowship to visit eight European countries each with universities with noted research in bioengineering. In 1982, Mow was awarded the John A. Clark and Edward T. Crossan Endowed Chair Professorship in Engineering from Rensselaer.

Mow moved to Columbia University in the city of New York in 1986 as the Anne Y. Stein Endowed Chair professor in Mechanical Engineering and Orthopaedic Bioengineering. There he started to work on new ways to map joints, such as the knee, shoulder and wrist, for surgical precision.[33] In December 1995, he received an invitation from Executive Vice Provost Michael M. Crow and Provost Jonathan R. Cole, to lead the formation of a new Department of Biomedical Engineering (DBME) at Columbia University and became the inaugural Chair from 2000 to 2010.

Following a highly public dispute with the Dean of the Engineering School, during which he called Dean Feniosky Peña-Mora a "control freak", Mow stepped down from his position in 2011.[34][35] He currently holds the Stanley Dicker Endowed Chair in the Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science. The Department of Biomedical Engineering is now ranked 18th among similar departments in the US.[36] Out of 9 engineering departments at Columbia University, only 3 are ranked higher.


In 1991 Mow was elected to the National Academy of Engineering "For major contributions toward orthopedic engineering, particularly understanding the physical behavior of cartilage and the arthritic process."[37] In 2004, ASME established the Van C. Mow Medal for its Bioengineering Division to be bestowed upon an individual who has demonstrated meritorious contributions to the field of bioengineering; the individual must have earned a Ph.D. or equivalent degree between 10 and 20 years of the award.[38]

Awards and honors in 1980s and 1990s
  • Kappa Delta-Elizabeth Winston Lanir Award, Best Research in Orthopaedics, AAOS, 1980
  • President, Orthopaedic Research Society, 1982-1983 (First PhD President)
  • Melville Medal, Highest ASME honor for original paper, 1982
  • Japanese Society for the Promotion of Science Fellowship, 1986
  • Fogarty Senior International Fellowship, 1987
  • HR Lissner Award for Contributions to Bioengineering, ASME, 1987
  • Bristol-Myers/Zimmer Award for Excellence in Orthopaedic Research, 1990
  • Elected to the United States National Academy of Engineering (1991)
  • Giovani Borelli Award, American Society of Biomechanics, 1991
  • College of Fellows, American Institute of Medical and Biological Engineering, Founding Member, Elected 1992
  • Elected to the United States National Academy of Medicine (1998; 2015)
  • Robert H. Thurston Lecture, ASME, November 18, 1998
Awards and honours since 2000
  • Academic Advisor to Crown Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn for the Development of Biomedical Engineering in Thailand, 2003–07
  • Elected to the Academia Sinica (2004)
  • Namesake for ASME Medal: The Van C. Mow Medal for Excellence in Bioengineering (2005) Van C. Mow Medal, ASME
  • Davies Medal for Outstanding Alumni Achievements, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, April 6, 2006
  • Distinguished Lecturer, Biomedical Engineering Department, University of Virginia, November 3, 2006
  • Named Lecture Series: The Annual Van C. Mow Lecture Series in Applied Mechanics, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, 2006
  • Hunter Distinguished Scientist Lecture, Molecular and Cellular Basis for Cartilage Functional Tissue Engineering—Role of Biomechanics, Biomedical Engineering Department, Clemson University, April 5, 2007
  • Distinguished Lecturer in Biomechanical Engineering, Molecular and Cellular Biomechanics of Articular Cartilage, Stanford University, June 4–5, 2007
  • Elected to the Academy of Sciences for the Developing World (2008)
  • OARSI Outstanding Basic Science Award, OARSI World Congress, Rome, Italy, September 18, 2008
  • Named Top 10 Mechanical Engineering Graduate from RPI for the Centennial Celebration of the ME Department, April 2008
  • William Mong Distinguished Lecture, University of Hong Kong, November 21, 2009
  • Distinguished Visiting Professor, University of Hong Kong, spring semester, 2012
  • Distinguished Visiting Professor, University of California, San Diego, spring semester, 2013
  • Richard Skalak Memorial Lecture, University of California, San Diego, March 15, 2013
  • Distinguished Lecturer and Visiting Professor, School of Engineering, University of Miami, March 24, 2014


In 1973 Mow married Barbara Hoffman, who studied psychology at the University of Vermont. Her graduate work was done at Rockefeller School of Public Affairs. They live together in Briarcliff Manor, NY. Van C. Mow has 2 sons from a previous marriage.

Jonathan, born in 1965, was promoted to Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of PhaseBio Pharmaceuticals, Inc, in March 2015.[39][40] Previously he was the Chief Business Officer (CBO) at this privately held, clinical-stage biotechnology company that is developing novel drugs to treat metabolic and cardiovascular diseases.[41] Jonathan was also involved in two venture capital biotech/pharma businesses in Seattle that were sold for $700 million in 2000 and $350 million in 2006.[42] Jonathan received an MBA from the Tepper School of Business at Carnegie Mellon University and a Bachelor of Science from the University of California, Berkeley. He and his family reside in the San Diego area.

Mow’s second son, Kelvin, was born in 1968. He is a Managing Director of Groupe SEB (Société d'Emboutissage de Bourgogne) overseeing several Asian countries while based in Hong Kong.[43][44] Groupe SEB is a large French consortium that produces small appliances and cookware. Notable brand names associated with Groupe SEB include All-Clad, Krups, Moulinex, Rowenta, and Tefal. Kelvin received his MBA from the University of Colorado at Boulder in 1991. He and his family reside in Hong Kong.


  1. ^ Google Scholar Record of V.C. Mow
  2. ^ Prof. Lai's Columbia University Webpage
  3. ^ Biphasic creep and stress relaxation of articular cartilage in compression: theory and experiments, by VC Mow, SC Kuei, WM Lai, CG Armstrong, in Journal of biomechanical engineering 102 (1), 73-84 (1980). (cited over 1900 times)
  4. ^ A triphasic theory for the swelling and deformation behaviors of articular cartilage, WM Lai, JS Hou, VC Mow, in Journal of biomechanical engineering 113 (3), 245-258 (1991). (cited over 900 times)
  5. ^ The Last Empress: Madame Chiang Kai-shek and the Birth of Modern China, by Hannah Pakula, Simon and Schuster, Nov 3, 2009, page xvi.
  6. ^ a b Webpage for General Pang Tzu Mow
  7. ^ CLIMAX, Roy Langdon, "General Mow and the $19,000,000", June 1957, pp. 2 - 9.
  8. ^ "Preemptive Strike", by Alan Armstrong, The Lyons Press, first edition (2006), p. 2-3 & 59-62. ISBN 1592289134
  9. ^ "Flying the Hump", by Otha C. Spencer, Texas A&M University Press, College Station, TX, 1992, page 27.
  10. ^ "Hump Air Transport," by Li Xiangping, The State Council Information Office of the PRC, 2003, p.19 - see "Mao BangChu"
  11. ^ The World's News (Sydney, NSW, Australia),"This is the Tradesmen's Entrance to China", by Patrick McMahon, Saturday, January 27, 1945, P. 5.
  12. ^ Legion of Merit Citation
  13. ^ "The Tarnished Treasure of General Mow," by Richard O'Connor, Coronet Magazine, Vol. 41, p. 114 (1957).
  14. ^ Los Angeles Times, "Back to His Future," by Evelyn Iritani September 28, 1997.
  15. ^ CONGRESSIONAL HEARING HRG-1952-SJS-0024, Subcommittee To Investigate the Administration of the Internal Security Act and Other Internal Security Laws; Committee on the Judiciary, "Testimony of Frances Yuan and Col. Ve-Shen Hsiang", Hearing Dates: Jul. 1, 10, 1952; Senate Sudoc Number: Y4.J89/2:Y9/3; Length: 61 pp.; Legacy CIS Number: 87 S1543-3
  16. ^ New York Times, "Chiang Aide In U.S. Recalled To Account For $19,440,000", Wednesday, August 22, 1951, page 1.
  17. ^ New York Times, "Gen. Mow In Mexico," Friday, February 22, 1952, page 2
  18. ^ Chicago Tribune, "Mexico Arrests China General in Funds Theft", Thursday, August 14, 1952, Part 2 - Page 4.
  19. ^ New York Times, "Mexico Holds Mow At Chiang Request", Thursday, August 14, 1952, page 2.
  20. ^ Isaac Don Levine, "Secrets of an Assassin," LIFE Magazine, Sep 28, 1959, page 122
  21. ^ Richard O'Connor, "The Tarnished Treasure of General Mow," Coronet Magazine, Vol. 41, pp. 111-116 (1957).
  22. ^ "The General & the Blonde," Time Magazine, Vol. 60 Issue 8, p33, 8/25/1952.
  23. ^ New York Times, "U. S. Appeals Court Rules Against Mow", Friday, July 1, 1955, page 5.
  24. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2015-06-04. Retrieved 2015-06-04.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  25. ^
  26. ^ The Wellington Koo Memoirs (Chinese Oral History Project of the East Asia Institute of Columbia University, Vol. VII, Part C: "The Mow Pang-chu - Chou Chih-jou Controversy: A Case History of Some of the Failings of Personal Politics") by V. K. Wellington Koo, 1978,
  27. ^
  28. ^ 孙立人,毛邦初及其他 - 来自: 顾维钧回忆录 第八分册的评论,
  29. ^ Los Angeles Times, "Back to His Future," by Evelyn Iritani September 28, 1997.
  30. ^ 毛邦初 让蒋介石颜面扫地的侄子 2015年05月18日,
  31. ^ VC Mow, "How to Succeed in America as a Chinese Researcher: A personal journey from the abyss to day light," Plenary Honorary Lecture at the International Chinese Hard Tissue Society (ICHTC) Meeting, Washington, DC, February 20, 2005.
  32. ^ RPI Alumni Magazine, Summer 2005
  33. ^ "Experimental Technology Maps Joints for Surgical Precision," New York Times, January 17, 1989
  34. ^ "Discord Over Dean Rocks Columbia Engineering School," New York Times, December 8, 2011, p. A30.
  35. ^ ""SEAS Tenured Faculty Vote No-Confidence Peña-Mora, Prof Says," Columbia Spectator, May 18, 2012". Archived from the original on March 5, 2016. Retrieved September 29, 2017.
  36. ^ US News, Graduate School Ranking, Edition 2015
  37. ^ National Academy of Engineering Citation
  38. ^ Chien, Shu. "A Tribute to Professor Van C. Mow: A Wonderful Scholar and Leader in Bioengineering". Cell. Mol. Bioeng. 2 (3): 282–4. doi:10.1007/s12195-009-0086-2. PMC 2749170. PMID 19779632 – via PubMed access
  39. ^ "PhaseBio Announces Expansion of Leadership Team", NASDAQ Globenewswire, 03/03/2015, see [1]
  40. ^ see Bloomberg Executive Profiles
  41. ^ see PhaseBio Pharmaceuticals webpage
  42. ^ "Brother Mow Exemplifies Theta Xi Ideals," in ALPHAbet - Quarterly RPI Alumni News, Theta Xi Association of Troy, New York, Fall 2006, p. 3
  43. ^ linkedin page of Kelvin Mow
  44. ^ "Tefal’s parent company Group SEB chooses social agency", 02/04/2014 in Singapore by Rezwana Manjur [2]

External links[edit]