Luo Jianfu was a scientist who made a great contribution to China's astronautics by creating the country's self-made pattern generator 30 years ago. Although the cumbersome electronic equipment has been replaced by the popular Technology CAD (Technology Computer Aided Design), Luo's sacrifice and devotion to technology is fondly remembered.
As an engineer at Shaanxi Lishan Microelectronic Company (now the No. 771 Institution of China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC), Luo was designated as the group leader to develop the pattern generator in 1969. However, this was during the social and political turmoil of the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976), and that made Luo’s work even more challenging.
Furthermore, what makes Luo's accomplishment even more impressive is the fact that he came to the project without a strong background in electronic circuits, automatic control, precision machinery or applied optics, as he was an engineer who specialized in nuclear physics, so he was essentially starting from scratch.
"The learning process was extremely difficult," said Hu Peide the former party secretary of Luo’s workshop.
Hu recalled that all the documents and guidebooks were in English, and Luo, like most people at that time, didn't speak English. He literally had to study the language from the beginning, Hu said.
The turmoil of the Cultural Revolution meant that Luo and many of his colleagues had to take part in ideological training during the day, so the team had no choice but to conduct research at night. Although hardly an ideal working schedule, Luo and his team persevered.
"His courage in face of adversity inspired us," said Lin Zhensheng, one of Luo's colleagues.
In 1972, Luo's team reached their goal and produced the first pattern generator for China. In the following years, the machine was continuously updated and improved.
Sadly, in 1981, while Luo was working on the pattern generator III, he was diagnosed with terminal cancer. Yet, he refused to dwell on the negative or be mired in self pity. Instead, he made the best of the situation. Luo volunteered for experimental medical procedures and tests and offered to donate his body to clinical research.
Luo died in 1982. He was 47. In 2007, his sculpture was put on display at the No.771 Institution.