Li Siguang

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(b. Hubei, China, 26 October 1889; d. Beijing, China, 29 April 1971)

geology, paleontology.

Li Siguang, formerly J. S. Lee (Jonquei Ssu-kuang Lee), was one of the most distinguished geologists in China. His father, LiZhuohou, was a teacher at a private country school. At the age of fourteen. Li was sent by the provincial government to study shipbuilding in Japan. He returned to China in 1910 and taught at the Hubei Technical College at Wuchang.

Li Siguang was admitted to Birmingham University (England) in 1913. His interests were mathematics, astronomy, physics, and especially geology. In 1917 he received the B.Sc. degree, and the M.Sc. in 1918. He married Xu Shubin in 1921; they had one daughter.

In 1922 Cai Yuanpei, the president of the National University of Peking, offered Li the post of deputy professor of geology at the university, which he accepted. He joined Zhang Hongzhao (H. T. Chang), Ding Wenjiang (V. K. Ting), Weng Wenhao (W. H. Wong), and others in establishing the Geological Society of China in 1922 and always took an active part in the society; he was elected vice president (1922–1925), security general (1928), and president (1932–1933, 1939, 1949, 1949–1951, 1953–1971). In 1929 Li was elected a foreign member of the Geological Society of London, and in 1939 the Council of the Geological society of China appointed him to the Council of the International Paleontological Union.

During a vacation in 1923, Li and his assistant, Zhao Yazeng (Y. T. Chao), investigated the geology of the Yangtze Valley from Ichang to Tzekwei, which subsequent geologists have classified as belonging to the Paleozoic stratigraphy of central China. Li published “Geology of the Gorge District of the Yangtze” in 1924, a valuable paper in which he proposed a highly improved stratigraphic classification.

Li conducted research on the fusulinids of north China that shed much light on the development of the Carboniferous and Permian rocks over a wide area of Eurasia, and on the life history of those highly specialized Foraminifera. For his monograph Fusulinidae of North China, Birmingham University awarded him the D.Sc. in 1927. From 1928 to 1949 he was director of the National Research Institute of Geology, Academia Sincia. In the year 1934–1935 Li was invited by the Universities’ China Committee in London to deliver a series of lectures at British universities. Some of the lectures were included in his book The Geology of China (1939).

Li conducted research on glaciation for many years, obtaining evidence in several localities, especially in the Lushan area of central China. Although he declared the existence of Quaternary glaciation in China, he was unable to persuade some scientists with different views. It remains a scientific controversy.

During World WarII, beginning in 1937, Li continued his research work on the tectonic types in southern China and concluded that the epsilon type, denominated by him, is the most important type and was widely distributed not only in China but also is many other parts of the world. In 1945 he recived an honoary ph.D. from the University of Oslo. He represented the Geological Society of China at the 1948 International Geological Congress held in London, where he presented the paper “The Myth of the Neocathaysian Seas.”

In 1949, soon after the founding of the People’s Republic of China, Li was appointed vice president of the Chinese Academy of Sciences. In 1950 he returned to China, where he was appointed minister of geology in 1952. In 1958 he was elected corresponding academician of the U.S.S.R. Academy of Sciences.

Under Li’s supervision the Research Institute of Geomechanics was established in 1956. He applied mechanics and his field experiences to research on geological Structure. His important book An Intro duction to Geomechanics, (in Chinese) was published in 1962. The theory of geomechanics has porved valuable in geothermal and earthquake studies, in the search for metallic and nonmetallic ores, and in confirming that China would have to import oil in order to survive.


I. Original Works. Li’s writings include “Geology of the Gorge District of the Yangtze,” in Bulletin of the Geological Society of China, 3 (1924), 351–391; “The Fundamental Clause of Evolution of the Earth’s Surface Features,” ibid., 5 (1926), 209–262, also published sep arately (Peking, 1927); Fusulinidae of North China (Peking, 1927), in Chinese and English: The Canon of Marine Transgression in Post-Paleozoic Times, National Research Institute of China, Institute of Geology, memoir no. 6 (Shanghai, 1928), in Chinese and English, the English version also in Bulletin of the Geological Society of China, 7 (1928), 81–128; Geological Guided to the Lungtan District Nanking (Nanking, 1932), written with S. Chu, in English and Chinese; The Geology of China (London, 1939): and Quaternary Glaciation in the Lushan Area, Central China (Nanking, 1947), in Chinese and English.

II. Secondary Literature. See Xia Xiangrong, History of the Geological Society of China (Beijing, 1982), in Chinese; and C. C. Yu, “Professor Jonquei Ssu-kuang Lee (Biographical Note),” in Contributions of the National Research Institute of Geology, Academia Sinica, no. 8 (1948), i–vii (no. 8 is a special number titled “In Commemoration of the Sixtieth Birthday of J. S. Lee, M.Sc., D.Sc.”).

Xia Xiangrong