Man-Chiang Niu, 95, a retired Temple University biology professor who helped forge Temple's longstanding relationship with his Chinese homeland, died of complications from bone marrow cancer Nov. 7 at his home in Beijing.
A member of Temple's faculty for 21 years, Dr. Niu was an acclaimed developmental biologist whose research centered on messenger ribonucleic acid, or mRNA, in cells.
Of equal renown was his role in fostering scientific exchanges between China and the United States.
The long-estranged nations had just reestablished normal relations when Deng Xiaoping, the Chinese vice premier at the time, visited the United States in 1979.
During that visit, Dr. Niu helped arrange for Deng to receive an honorary doctor of laws degree from Temple. Deng, aware of Dr. Niu's scientific accomplishments, accepted - and reciprocated by inviting a delegation from Temple, including Dr. Niu, to visit China later that year.
From that visit grew an enduring educational exchange relationship between the urban university on North Broad Street and the world's most populous nation.
Dr. Niu had quietly been laying the groundwork for years. He visited Beijing's Chinese Academy of Sciences each summer beginning in 1972, working with researchers there and seeking permission for some of them to work at Temple with him.
"The political situation did not allow the Chinese scientists to come over," Dr. Niu told The Inquirer in 1978. "But I went back every summer and I asked every summer."
His persistence was rewarded in the fall of 1978, when two genetic researchers from China were allowed to come to Temple and work there. After Deng's visit the next year, the gates opened wider.
Soon, with help from Temple faculty members, China's Nankai University had its first actuarial science program, and improvements were made in China's chemistry education programs.
In 1997, Temple was enlisted to help reform China's legal system by designing programs to teach Chinese legal professionals about Western law practices.
Born Oct. 31, 1912, in He Bei Province, China, Dr. Niu graduated from Beijing University in 1936 with a bachelor's degree in biology. He lectured for seven years at National Southwestern Associated University in Kunming before moving to the United States in 1944 with his wife, Lillian Paoying Niu, to whom he was married the previous year.
After earning a doctorate in biology at Stanford University, Dr. Niu worked for the Rockefeller Institute for Medical Research in New York before joining Temple's faculty in 1960. He retired from Temple in 1981.
With a grant from the Rockefeller Foundation, Dr. Niu in 1980 helped found the Chinese Academy of Sciences' Institute of Developmental Biology in Beijing. He directed a laboratory there until his death, dividing his time between Beijing and Elkins Park, Montgomery County.
In addition to his wife, Dr. Nieu is survived by two daughters, McYing Niu and Manette T. Nieu.
A funeral ceremony was held Nov. 16 in Beijing. Among those attending was Chinese President Hu Jintao.