Hsen-Hsu Hu 胡先驌

Is your surname Hu?

Research the Hu family

Share your family tree and photos with the people you know and love

  • Build your family tree online
  • Share photos and videos
  • Smart Matching™ technology
  • Free!

Hsen-Hsu Hu

Chinese: 【(江西新建)】 胡先驌 (步曾)
Death: 1968 (73-74)
Immediate Family:

Son of 胡承弼 (佑臣) and 陳彩芝
Half brother of 胡先騏 (慰曾)

Managed by: Private User
Last Updated:
view all

Immediate Family

About Hsen-Hsu Hu 胡先驌

Hsen-Hsu Hu is known as one of the founders of modern plant taxonomy in China. After a productive career in which he founded the herbarium of the Fan Memorial Institute and helped to establish several scientific institutions, Hu was persecuted by the Communist government as a political dissident. His reputation was posthumously restored.

Hu was born in Xinjian, Jiangxi Province, where his father was a government official. His father died when Hu was nine years old. After his schooling he attended the Metropolitan College of Peking (later known as Peking University) and in 1912 was selected to study in the United States. Before he left he married Rongfen Wang, with whom he would have two children before her premature death 15 years later.

Hu earned his bachelor's degree in botany at the University of California, Berkeley (1916). He then returned to China in 1917 and worked initially in the Forest Bureau at Lushan, Jiangxi. His teaching career began the following year, when he was appointed Professor of Forestry at Nanjing Teachers College.

The Teachers College shortly became part of National Southeastern University and Hu was appointed Professor of Botany and Chair of the Department of Biology. In 1920-1921 he organised a number of field trips in Zhejiang, Jiangxi and Fujian, and began forming a large herbarium. Correspondence and specimen exchange with western herbaria was crucial for determining Chinese specimens (the types having been collected by Europeans) and Hu entered into extensive exchanges with European and American institutions, particularly the Arnold Arboretum (Harvard University) and the Berlin-Dahlem Botanical Museum.

Around this time, together with his colleagues Woon-Young Chun and Chi Ping, he also founded the Biological Laboratory of the Science Society of China, the first biological research institute of its kind in China. Another of Hu's pioneering achievements at this time was co-authoring the first modern Chinese botany textbook, Higher Botany (1923), with Ping-Wen Tsou and Sung-Shu Chien.

Hu returned to the U.S. in 1923 to study for a doctorate at Harvard, where he could make use of the fine Chinese collections. He took four forestry courses under John G. Jack and completed a dissertation entitled "Synopsis of Chinese genera of phanerogams, with descriptions of representative species". In 1925 Hu became the first Chinese student to receive a Doctor of Science degree from Harvard.

Unfortunately, during Hu's two years away, the science building at Southeastern University burnt down and its herbarium and library were lost. Specimens survived in the Science Society laboratories, but efforts were needed to build up the university collections again. Support was received from American botanists Elmer Drew Merrill and Charles Sprague Sargent. Meanwhile, Hu continued to publish taxonomic and floristic papers, in particular working on Icones Plantarum Sinicarum with Woon-Young Chun (five volumes, 1927-1937). Hu was fast becoming the leading authority on Chinese flora.

In addition to his scientific work, Hu published articles on education, economics and current affairs, and wrote poetry. He married his second wife, Jingheng Zhang, in 1927, after being widowed. Zhang, a nurse, bore him four children.

In 1928, Hu and Chi Ping founded the Fan Memorial Institute of Biology in Beijing, which became the foremost biological research institute in China. After four years Hu took over from Ping as its director, remaining in this post until 1949. During this time he built up the institute's herbarium to become the largest in the country, amassing more than 185,000 specimens in under a decade, through collecting and exchange. He also founded the Lushan Botanical Garden and Arboretum of the Fan Institute in 1934, which was the first botanical garden in China. In the preceding year he had helped to found the Botanical Society of China, serving as president in 1934-1935 and editor of its journal until 1937.

Following on from his position at the Fan Institute, Hu was appointed Professor of Botany at Beijing University (formerly Peking University) and Beijing Normal University. He was forced to leave Beijing in 1939, however, after giving a speech which displeased the Japanese occupying forces. Returning to Jiangxi with his family, he became president of the new National Chung Chen University in 1940, while the Fan Memorial Institute was decimated by Japanese forces, all its staff ejected and collections removed to Japan or destroyed. Some Fan staff joined Hu at Chung Chen, but eventually research was made impossible.

Following the Japanese surrender, Hu and his staff returned to Beijing to salvage what they could at the Fan Memorial Institute. More than half the herbarium specimens had been lost, leaving only 85,000.

It was in these post-war years that Hu made his most famous discovery, a much needed boost in the years of re-building and resuming investigations. The discovery was the dawn redwood, Metasequoia glyptostroboides Hu & Cheng, which was dubbed a living fossil. At this time Hu also began to publish his bilingual, illustrated Silva of China, though only the first two volumes were completed.

At the end of the 1940s the Fan Institute's Botany Department was merged with the Botanical Institute of the National Academy, forming the Institute of Plant Taxonomy of the Academia Sinica (later known as the Institute of Botany, Chinese Academy of Sciences). Hu was one of the first 25 biologists selected for the Academia Sinica in 1948, having been involved with the Academia network since 1928, and served as a curator at the Botanical Institute until 1965. He was prevented from reaching higher echelons because of his political leanings. As a further blow, the Chinese Academy and national press railed against Hu when he spoke out against the genetic theories of Trofim Lysenko, which had been disseminated from Russia to China.

Hu's criticism of the government prevented his re-election to the Chinese Academy of Sciences in 1955. Circumstances changed when Lysenko was discredited and Hu's suggestion to establish a new Institute of Genetics at the Chinese Academy was approved. Afterwards, he was promoted from Third Grade Curator to First Grade Curator and in 1959 came aboard the editorial committee of the Flora Reipublicae Popularis Sinicae project.

Hu was delighted that his dream of a flora of China was to be realised and was assigned the task of providing treatments for the Betulaceae and Theaceae. He finished the former in 1965, despite suffering heart problems and weak health. Before it was published, however, the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution began and Hu was again at the mercy of communist ideologists, unable to complete any more work.

Hu's troubles only increased in his final years. After publishing a paper in a foreign journal in 1965 ("The major groups of living beings: a new classification", Taxon 14), he was accused of unpatriotic activities. His family were forced to move out of their home and Hu's personal possessions confiscated. He suffered a fatal heart attack in July 1968. When his Betualaceae treatment in the Flora was published, he was not credited in the list of authors. Hu was cleared of all charges against him in 1979 and his ashes were scattered at Lushan Botanical Garden in 1984.


  • J.A. Ma and K. Barringer, 2005, "Dr. Hsen-Hsu Hu (1894-1968) - a founder of modern plant taxonomy in China", Taxon, 54(2): 559-566
  • H.L. Li, 1944, "Botanical exploration in China during the last twenty-five years", Proceedings of the Linnean Society of London, 156: 27.

胡先驌 (步曾)生平 (中文)

《中國大百科全書 生物學》(施滸 撰)


他畢生從事中國植物分類學研究﹐1919年他在浙江省天台﹑雁蕩﹑松陽﹑龍泉﹑小九華山﹑仙霞嶺﹑遂昌﹑開化﹑建德﹑遂安﹑西﹑東天目山一帶採得大量植物標本。1920年﹐又去江西吉安﹑贛州﹑寧都﹑建昌﹑廣信及福建武夷山採集。他是繼鍾觀光後的又一位大規模植物標本採集者。他一生發表植物學論文140餘篇﹐發現一個新科 6個新屬和一百幾十個新種。1940年他和美國古生物學家R.W.錢耐共同發表“中國山東中新世植物群”。1946年底收到鄭萬鈞寄來的薛紀如從四川萬縣磨刀溪採到的水杉枝﹑葉﹑花﹑果標本﹐進行研究並確定﹐它與日本古植物學家三木茂在1941年發表的兩種植物化石同為一屬植物。1948年 4月與鄭萬鈞共同發表給以新的種名(Metasequoia glyptostroboides Hu et Cheng)。這一發現使世界植物學界為之震驚。1927~1937年﹐他與陳煥鏞合編《中國植物圖譜》5卷﹐包括250種中國特有植物的描述。1930~1934年與秦仁昌合編《中國蕨類植物圖譜》2卷﹐描繪中國重要蕨類100種。1948年編《中國森林樹木圖誌》﹐記述了中國產的樺木科與榛樹科植物85種。1950年﹐他發表了“被子植物分類的一個多元系統和親緣關係系統圖”﹐同時在植物地理﹑植物區系﹑古植物和經濟植物學方面提出許多新的見解。1954年他出版了《植物分類學簡編》﹐該書內容翔實﹐在植物分類原理一章中﹐駁斥了蘇聯李森科關於物種的見解。1915年在美國與秉志等共同發起成立了中國科學社﹐並刊行《科學》雜誌。1930年被第五屆國際植物學會會議選為國際植物命名法規委員會的委員﹐1933年﹐他發起成立中國植物學會。1934年在廬山植物園召開的中國植物學會第一屆年會上當選為第二任會長和《中國植物學雜誌》的第一任總編輯。他是中國植物分類研究工作的開拓者之一。

view all

Hsen-Hsu Hu 胡先驌's Timeline