TAN KAH KEE Science Award

Tan Kah Kee Award in Earth Sciences

Chen Shupeng (1920-2008) was a native of Pingxiang, Jiangxi Province. Chen was an expert on geography, cartography, and the application of remote sensing. He graduated from Geochronic Geology Department of Zhejiang University. In 1980, Chen was elected an Academician of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, in 1992 he was elected an Academician of the Third World Academy of Sciences, and in 1995 he became an Academician of the International Eurasian Academy of Sciences. He is the Honorary Chairman of the Remote Sensing Research Institute of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, the Honorary Director of the State Key Laboratory of Resources and Environment Information System of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, a member of the State Environment Advisory Committee and of the Committee on International Cooperation for the Chinese Environment and Development, and the Honorary Director of the Academic Committee of the Digital Chinese College of Peking University.

Professor Chen Shupeng is the founder of remote sensing and geographical information systems in China. Initially his research was focused on the survey of landforms and on physical geography. In 1950 he set up the first cartographic research unit in New China, where his main business was to conduct research on landscape cartography and the design of a national atlas. In the 1960s he boldly took charge of a new research project on automation in map-making, in which Chinese scientists chose to be self-reliant, and in that process became recognized as among world leaders in this field. In the 1970s, as computer technology developed by leaps and bounds, Professor Chen's research interests turned towards remote sensing. Leveraging on the accuracy and speed of computer cartography, Professor Chen was able to procure reliable sources of data for the monitoring of the earth's surface and the dynamic mapping of geomorphologic movements. To this end he organized three important experiments, generally known as the three "major battles" in the history of remote sensing in China. These laid the foundation for future developments: in the mechanisms of the transmission of remotely sensed information, and in image formation. In 1983 Professor Chen made a pioneering call for geographical information systems, in order to process and analyze remotely sensed terrestrial and marine data rapidly and in an integrated manner. Under his leadership, many national research projects were launched: on early warning of floods, on urban management, and on the development of coastal regions. Professor Chen has been a strong advocate of research on geographical information systems in China. As the nation developed paradigms and standards for geoinformation, he led international exchanges and trained young researchers. In the 1990s Professor Chen published a series of important works which provided systematic and in-depth analysis on the theoretical foundation of geoinformation science, the targets for research, remote-sensing technology and its practical application. He is a champion for the geoinformation spectrum, which would describe the existing topography, and through spatio-temporal models, reconstruct the past and project. Professor Chen has won numerous international awards: some thirty prizes including the National Natural Science Award and the State Scientific and Technological Progress Award, the Osborn Maitland Miller Medal of the American Geographical Society (1998), the Special Achievement Prize for Remote Sensing in Asia (2001), the Contribution Prize of the International Karst Society (2001), and the Highest Honour Prize of the International Cartography Association (2001).

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