Chinese rocket scientist who has died aged 97
Qian Xuesen was the father of China’s space programme, led the development of the country’s atom bomb and its intercontinental ballistic missile capability. But, if he hadn’t been expelled from the US as a spy, he could have been doing all this work for the Americans. He moved to the US in 1935 to study at California’s Institute of Technology, where he became one of the country’s most eminent rocket scientists, founding the Jet Propulsion Laboratory and taking part in the Manhattan project which led to the first atomic bomb. But as the McCarthyite Communist witch hunts began in the 1950s, Qian was accused of spying and issued with a deportation order.
Matthew talks to former NASA astronaut Tom Henricks, former colleague and friend at Caltech, Dr Frank Marble and to Temtsel Hao, journalist at the BBC’s Chinese section.
Qian Xuesen was born 11 December 1911 and died 31 October 2009
Clergy man and hymn writer who has died aged 81
The Reverend Fred Kaan was one of the most influential hymn writers of the post war era. His first collection, Pilgrim Praise, was published in 1968 and his hymns, including classics such as Healing of the Nations, have since been translated into more than 15 languages. His theology focused on human rights and freedom from injustice. Emerging from the war as a committed pacifist, he discovered his own faith and began attending church. He struck up a long distance friendship with a pen pal in the UK and on a visit, discovered the Congregational church, which later became the United Reformed Church. Fred was ordained in 1955 in Glamorgan.
Last Word hears from his biographer Dr Gillian Warson and his friend and fellow hymn writer, Reverend Alan Gaunt.
Frederik Hermanus Kaan was born 27 July 1929 and died 4 October 2009
CLAUDE LEVI -STRAUSS
French social anthropologist who has died aged 100
Claude Levi-Strauss was one of the great French intellectuals. Inspired by his studies of the Indian tribes of South America, he effectively created the study of anthropology in France. And his application of structuralism to this field of study won him admirers in many different intellectual disciplines. During the Nazi occupation of France, Levi Strauss worked first as a teacher, but then when the anti Jewish laws began to bite, was able to escape to New York where he became friendly with the surrealist painters Max Ernst and Andre Breton. Regarded as one of the most important thinkers of the century, his 100th birthday was celebrated last year in France and internationally.
Matthew speaks to French philosopher Bernard Henri Levy, socio- anthropologist and former student of Levi Strauss, Anne Christine Taylor, and Professor of Anthropology at the LSE, Maurice Bloch.
Claude Levi-Strauss was born on November 28, 1908 and died November 1, 2009.
One of the last ‘Idle Women’, the Land Girls of the canals, who has died aged 85
Olga Kevelos had an eventful life. She worked on barges during the Second World War, became an international motocross champion, retired to run a pub, and took part in the TV quiz Mastermind. She had an academic bent, studying metallurgy and developing an interest in astronomy. After the war she went to Paris to study French medieval history. But it was her wartime experiences and her motorcycling exploits that fascinated the regulars at the Three Tuns in King’s Sutton which she ran with her brother Ray.
Matthew talks to friend and fellow quiz contestant David Brydson
Olga Kevelos died 28th October 2009
Radio 4’s obituary programme, marking the lives of significant figures who have died recently,...