Former Research Professor Xiaowen Li Passes Away

in 2015, Alan Strahler, Curtis Woodcock, Faculty, Jan-15, News, Researchers
January 23rd, 2015

Former Geography Research Professor Xiaowen Li succumbed to illness in Beijing on January 10th at the age of 67. Working closely with Professors Alan Strahler, Curtis Woodcock, and Crystal Schaaf, Professor Li developed a succession of physical models of directional reflectance of forest land cover that saw wide use in land remote sensing. He was also the primary architect of the algorithms underlying the MODIS BRDF/Albedo product. Soon after the MODIS launch, Professor Li transitioned to Beijing Normal University (BNU), where he held the rank of Professor and Dean in the School of Geography, and most recently served there as the Director of the Remote Sensing and Geographic Information Systems Research Center. He also served as the Director of the Institute of Remote Sensing Applications of the Chinese Academy of Science from 2002-2008, and was the Principal Investigator for several important Key Projects in remote sensing supported by the Chinese Academy of Science under the five-year planning mechanism.

Professor Li’s contributions were recognized with his appointment as Academician of the Chinese Academy of Science in 2001. He also received several prestigious science prizes from that academy and the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology in China.

In contributions to Boston University, Professor Li served as the liaison for an academic exchange program in remote sensing between BU and Beijing Normal, which brought BNU doctoral students to BU. He also generously endowed a fund within the Department of Geography and Environment for assistance to the exchange students.

He is survived by his widow, Wu Chuanqi, and his two daughters, Li Jie and Li Zhung, who reside in the United States.

In recent years, Professor Li’s quiet and self-effacing demeanor, unusual for an Academician, was recognized through social media and earned him the title of the “Cloth Shoes Academician.” Here follows two translations of media reports on his death, kindly provided by Dr. David Jupp of CSIRO, Australia, also a friend and colleague of Professor Li. Text and photographs of Professor Li’s funeral are posted on the web site i.feng.com/news.

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Translated From:  http://www.wenxuecity.com/news/2015/01/10/3937484.html

The “Cloth Shoes” Academician, Li Xiaowen has passed away. From now on the “Humble Sage”1 is no longer with us 

This popular web based image of Academician Li Xiaowen was taken on April 18, 2014 as he delivered a lecture at the Chinese Academy of Sciences university. From his plain monastic dress, unkempt beard and cloth shoes, it is clear how he has become the "Teacher Immortal." (http://www.wenxuecity.com/news/2015/01/10/3937484.html)

This popular web based image of Academician Li Xiaowen was taken on April 18, 2014 as he delivered a lecture at the Chinese Academy of Sciences university. From his plain monastic dress, unkempt beard and cloth shoes, it is clear how he has become the “Teacher Immortal.” (Source)

 

On the 10th [of January 2014], the reporter learned from the web that Academician Li Xiaowen of the Chinese Academy of Sciences and Director of the Centre for Geographic Information at Beijing Normal University, also known popularly as the “Cloth Shoes Academician”, had passed away in Beijing.

Brief summary of academic achievements:

Academician Li Xiaowen graduated from the Chengdu Academy of Telecommunications Engineering in [Sichuan Province, China in] 1968. In 1985 he achieved Master and PhD degrees in Geographic Science, and Master in Computer and Electronic Engineering [in the US] at the University of California at Santa Barbara. He has been Head of the Institute of Remote Sensing Applications at the Chinese Academy of Sciences and Dean and Teaching Professor in the Department of Natural Resources and Environment at Beijing Normal

University. [At the University] He was The Great River Meritorious Professor2, specializing in the fundamental theory of remote sensing science. He is originator of the Li-Strahler geometrical optics model which has been recognised by the International Society for Optical Engineering [SPIE] as a “Landmark achievement”, and he has achieved great fame at home and abroad in Remote Sensing Science.

In 2014, a report and photograph of Academician Li Xiaowen, with his plain and simple clothing and footwear, became popular on the Web, with some Netizens3 feeling that Li Xiaowen looked like a “Humble Sage”: [eg] “with humble demeanour but who from a seemingly inconspicuous role, displayed amazing gifts and brought about miraculous achievements.”

 

Related Report:

The Cloth Shoes Academician gives a lecture at University – the Weibo Netizens “Humble Sage”

Wearing plain and simple monastic dress, without socks, and wearing black cloth shoes, with thin features, grizzled hair and straggling beard, 67 year old Academician Li Xiaowen sits lecturing his works at the Chinese Academy of Sciences University. His humble presence is “like that of an immortal Sage”: Since the end of 1970, Li Xiaowen has been engaged in research into the area of Geography and Remote Sensing Information Science. He was originator of the Li-Strahler Geo-Optical Model, which was selected by the International Society for Optical Engineering [SPIE] as a “Landmark achievement”. The research achievements he and his team have made have advanced the development of quantitative remote sensing science, and made China one of the leaders in the field of quantitative Remote Sensing Science.

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1 Literally, “the sweeping monk”. A monk sweeping the temple yard is in the position of a lowly person and emphasises virtuous unimportance. Apparent unimportance brings little fame and recognition but they are of little importance to a monk.

2 As Great River Professor, Li Xiaowen would have been used to the endless noise of the apes on the banks as he drifted from Baidi City through endless mountains of new ideas.

3 It is wonderful that people in the social media age, where your value is measured by number of friends multiplied the number of likes, can value unimportance, it is also wonderful they recognised the true nature of Li Xiaowen behind the picture.