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Peking University commemorates 110th anniv. of founding of mathematics discipline
Oct 25, 2023
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The Commemoration of the 110th Anniversary of the Founding of the Mathematics Discipline at Peking University

Peking University, October 24, 2023: The Commemoration of the 110th Anniversary of the Founding of the Mathematics Discipline at Peking University (PKU) and Inauguration Ceremony of the Chi Wah Building, PKU Math’s new building, was held on the morning of Oct. 21, 2023, at the Wen Yuan Hall of Chi Wah Building.

PKU Council Chair Hao Ping, PKU Vice President Zhang Jin, experts and scholars from renowned universities and institutions, along with PKU faculty, student, and alumni representatives, attended the event, which was presided over by Prof. Hu Jun from the School of Mathematical Sciences (SMS).  

Over the past 110 years, PKU has developed into a world-class institution in the mathematics discipline, cultivating generations of talents, experts, and pioneers in the field. 

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The School of Mathematical Sciences, located at the newly-built Chi Wah Building.
In 1913, the SMS, then known as the “Mathematics Discipline,” started enrolling students, marking the beginning of university-level mathematics education in China.
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A group photo taken in 1916 shows the first batch of graduates of science at Peking University.

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The old site of Peking University's Mathematics Department

In 1919, the Mathematics Discipline formally changed its name to the “Mathematics Department,” marking the birth of mathematics as an independent area of study. Among the department groupings at the University, the Mathematics Department was listed as the first department. This “first department” title is a proud tradition the School honors. 
After the outbreak of the Chinese People's War of Resistance against Japanese Aggression, the mathematics departments of PKU, Tsinghua University, and Nankai University merged to form the Department of Mathematics under the College of Sciences, National Southwest Associated University. Outstanding mathematicians including Jiang Lifu, Yang Ko Chuen, Loo-keng Hua, and Shiing-Shen Chern all assumed teaching positions, nurturing students in spite of the challenging circumstances.

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From the late 1940s to the mid-1950s, a batch of scholars returned to Peking University from foreign countries. (From left: Zhang Herui, Wang Xianghao, Dong Tiebao, Wang Ren, Wu Wenjun, Liao Shantao)

In 1952, following a national reorganization of tertiary education institutes, the Mathematics Departments of PKU, Tsinghua University, and Yenching University merged to form the PKU School of Mathematics and Mechanics. The School was the first in China to offer mechanics while offering many more majors including algebra, analysis, geometry, topology, probability statistics, and even astronomy. Students and faculty staff came together in collaboration and research, fostering an innovative teaching environment. 

In 1958, the computer laboratory and wind tunnel laboratory were established under the School. The School nurtured a number of scholars key to China’s computer science development, including Academician Wang Xuan.

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 Wang Xuan

In 1997, after establishing many more divisions and research institutes, the PKU School of Mathematical Sciences was officially established.

In 2005, the Beijing International Center for Mathematical Research was set up at PKU, with an aim to cultivate a new generation of world-class mathematicians for the country. The establishment of the Center marked a significant step in the internationalization of mathematics at PKU. 

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Jiang Boju, the first dean of PKU's School of Mathematical Sciences

Today, there are nine Academicians and over 200 teachers and researchers at the School of Mathematical Sciences. Over the past ten years, the School has produced over 2,000 bachelor graduates and over 1,700 master's and Ph.D. graduates.
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PKU professors at the International Congress of Mathematicians 2022

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The Founding Ceremony of the Sino-Russian Mathematics Center
In 2017 and 2020 respectively, the establishment of the National Engineering Laboratory for Big Data Analysis and Applications and the Sino-Russian Mathematics Center signaled the internationalization of PKU mathematics and stand testament to the contributions of distinguished PKUers to the field of mathematics.

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 The Chi Wah Building, decorated on the occasion of the 110th anniversary

Over the past 110 years, PKU Math has been an innovator in its field, acting as an incubator for future mathematicians. In the future, the School will continue playing a crucial role in extending PKU's scholarly tradition, serving as a frontier of innovation and research.

Written by: Chen Chuyun
Edited by: Glenda Ho
Source: PKU News (Chinese)