Wu, though a native of Jiangxi and having studied at both Tsinghua and Peking University, had a special relationship with Yunnan Province. In 1958, only three years after his election to the Chinese Academy of Sciences as an Academician, was appointed Director to the Chinese Academy of Sciences Kunming Institute of Botany (KIB). Wu spent much of his time at KIB introducing the richness of Yunnan’s plant life with the rest of China and the international community, having spent the last seven decades researching and teaching botanical geography and medicinal botany in south-west China, focusing on plant taxonomy, plant systematics, geography, and environmental protection.
During his long career, he led numerous expeditions an surveys of plant resources in Asia, and traversed all four continents. He published and co-authored extensively on 1766 new plant populations, making him the botanist with the most plant discoveries in all of China.
As much a conservationist as a scientist, Wu proposed establishing nature reserves and databases to protect biodiversity in China, particularly in Yunnan. For his deep contributions to both the Chinese and International scientific community, in 2008 Wu received the prestigious State Preeminent Science and Technology Award, the highest scientific prize awarded in China.
(By Andrew Willden)