Zhou Youguang was a Chinese economist, banker, linguist, sinologist, publisher, and supercentenarian, known as the “father of Pinyin”, a system for the romanization of Mandarin Chinese, which was officially adopted by the government of the People’s Republic of China in 1958, the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) in 1982, and the United Nations in 1986.
Google celebrates Zhou Youguang’s 112th birthday with doodle on Jan 13, 2018.
Zhou was born as Zhou Yaoping in Changzhou, Jiangsu Province, on 13 January 1906 to a Qing Dynasty official. At the age of ten, he and his family moved to Suzhou, Jiangsu Province.
In 1918, he entered Changzhou High School, during which time he first took an interest in linguistics. He graduated in 1923 with honours.
Zhou participated for a time in the China Democratic National Construction Association, but when the People’s Republic was established in 1949 he returned to Shanghai, where he taught economics at Fudan University for several years.
In 1955, the government placed Zhou at the head of a committee to reform the Chinese language to increase literacy. While other committees oversaw the tasks of promulgating Mandarin Chinese as the national language and creating simplified Chinese characters, Zhou’s committee was charged with developing a romanization to represent the pronunciation of Chinese characters.
In April 1979, the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) in Warsaw held a technology conference. Speaking on behalf of the People’s Republic of China, Zhou proposed the use of the “Hanyu Pinyin System” as the international standard for the spelling of Chinese. Following a vote in 1982 the scheme became ISO 7098.
During the Cultural Revolution, Zhou was sent to live in the countryside and to be “re-educated”, as were many other intellectuals at that time. He spent two years at a labour camp.
Zhou died on 14 January 2017 at his home in Beijing, a day after his 111th birthday; no cause was given. His wife had died in 2002, and his son had died in 2015. At the time, he was the seventh-oldest known living man and the oldest known living person in China. He is one of the 100 world’s verified oldest men in history.
Zhou was the author of more than 40 books, some of them banned in China and over 10 of them published after he turned 100 in 2005.
Watch more doodles at https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLK2ccNIJVPpD5c8_bNZgcWHmoJHHwoQ6x