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UPDATED: December 21, 2009 NO. 51 DECEMBER 24, 2009
Discovering the World
China's primary science and technology organization invigorates itself through reform and innovation

NUCLEAR POWER: China's first atomic bomb explodes on October 16, 1964 (XINHUA) 

On December 5, 2009, the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) announced that 35 prominent scientists had been elected as academicians. The average age of the new academicians was 54.1, said Lu Yongxiang, President of CAS. It was the second youngest group to be elected to CAS since 1991, behind only the class of 2007, which had an average age of 53.7.

The title of CAS academician is the highest national honor for Chinese scientists and is a lifelong appointment. New members are brought into CAS every two years, and no more than 60 can be added each year.

Seventy-seven percent of this year's group was under 60 years old, younger than the academy, which recently celebrated its 60th birthday. Electors paid more attention to qualified young and middle-aged scientists when selecting the new members, Lu added.

CAS, founded on November 1, 1949, is China's national academy for the natural science, technological science and hi-tech innovation. It currently has 714 members in six sections: mathematics and physics, chemistry, the life sciences and medicine, earth science, information technical sciences and technological sciences. The institution also has 12 regional branches, more than 100 research institutes, one university (the University of Science and Technology of China) and a graduate school (the Graduate School of the Chinese Academy of Sciences).

HI-TECH MACHINE: The Beijing Electron Positron Collider, July 17, 2009 (XINHUA)

CAS is "a major advisory body to the government on science and technology issues and a national comprehensive research and development center in the natural sciences and high technology in China," CAS noted on its website.

Early achievements

CAS was set up as a government institution for the management of the nation's scientific research one month after the founding of the People's Republic of China in 1949. In 1955, the academic divisions of CAS were founded and its first 233 members were elected.

In the 1950s, many Chinese scientists living abroad such as leading geologist Li Siguang and rocket scientist Qian Xuesen returned to the country and became founders and pioneers in many research fields.

In 1956, the Central Government launched a campaign called Marching Toward Modern Science and created the 12-Year Foresight Program for Science and Technology Deve-lopment. Thousands of scientists participated in formulating the program, which identified key research areas such as atomic energy, computers, semi-conductors, automation and electronics.

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