Professor Chen Chih-fan, former Chair Professor and Chairman of the Department of Electronics at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, passed away on Feb 25, 2012, aged 87.
In the late summer of 1977, three years after the departure of Professor Charles Kao, a Nobel Laureate and the founding Chairman of the Department of Electronics, the University appointed Professor Chen Chih-fan as the new Chairman. He was a top scholar in control theory and a gifted writer in Chinese essays. Before the arrival of Professor Chen, visitors to the Department were mainly distinguished engineers, scientists and industrialists. To our amazement, the Department started to have a new kind of visitors. The Department office was often filled with teams of various people. Some were journalists but most of them were admirers of their beloved writer Professor Chen.
Professor Chen received his PhD degree from Cambridge University, UK. He was a Professor of Electronic Engineering at the University of Houston in 1966-77. Even before obtaining his PhD from the University of Cambridge, Professor Chen had already left his mark on control and system sciences by publishing innovative work in top-notch academic journals and authoring the book “Elements of Control System Analysis” jointly with John Haas. Of his many original contributions the most well known are perhaps the application of Walsh and block-pulse functions to system analysis, and the reduction of complex systems using continued-fraction expansion. As a genuine scholar Professor Chen researched mainly for satisfying his own curiosity. It is therefore of little surprise to find that he co-authored a book on LISP (a computer programming language), and articles which link the Smith Chart (a graphical tool in microwave circuits) with Einstein’s special theory of relativity.
He joined the Chinese University of Hong Kong as Chair Professor and Chairman of the Department of Electronic Engineering in 1977, and retired from the University in 1984. From 1985 to 2001, he was a research professor at the Department of Applied Science, Boston University. For the decade between 1993 and 2002, he was the Special Chair of the Department of Electronic Engineering, National Cheng Kung University, Tainan, Taiwan. He had been an Honorary Professor of the Department of Electronic Engineering of the CUHK from 2002 to now.
Professor Chen was a scholar with great vision and extensive overseas research and teaching experience. He encouraged our staff and students to start up new companies, a new idea at that time, and many successful small companies and several large companies were established by our students and staff . He also initiated the first PhD program in the University. During his leadership of the Department, Professor Chen had informal lunch meetings with the teaching staff of the Department almost daily. He shared jokes and new ideas about academic and non-academic matters. His colleagues found these very refreshing and inspiring. He will be remembered as a great scholar and leader with significant influence.
CUHK Features: Remembering Prof. Chen Chih-fan
Prof. Chen Chih-fan at CUHK in 1977