Xu Liangying, Chinese historian of science, dissident, and translator of Albert Einstein's collected works, died of apparent organ failure on 28 January in Beijing. He was 92.
Xu's improbable journey from diehard Communist to rebel scientist began in 1942, after he earned a B.S. in physics from Zhejiang University. That year, the young idealist declined an assistant lectureship at Zhejiang University to pursue a passion for civic activism: He led student movements in Hangzhou, the capital of Zhejiang, and joined the Chinese Communist Party's underground movement in 1946. After the Communists came to power in 1949, the newly founded Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) recruited Xu to work as a censor for its publication at its Beijing headquarters.
Even though Xu wholeheartedly supported Mao Zedong and the Communist Party, Xu told an interviewer in 1999 that he couldn't understand why the party turned on its critics after inviting them to speak up during the so-called anti-rightist movement of 1957 to 58. Answering Mao's call of "letting a hundred flowers blossom and a hundred schools of thought contend," Chinese intellectuals criticized and made suggestions to improve the party bureaucracy, only to have their "snake heads" cut off when Mao retaliated. Xu told the party that such action broke the faith of the people; he was branded a rightist, dismissed from his job, and banished to his ancestral village in Zhejiang to be reformed through labor. Xu worked as a peasant for more than 2 decades. In his spare time, he translated the collected works of Einstein into Chinese.