Chinese American Hero: Chang-lin Tien

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This is Week 14 of AsianWeek’s salute to Chinese American Heroes, in conjunction with Chinese American Heroes, a 501c3 non-profit organization dedicated to documenting the contributions of Chinese Americans to America and the world.

This week’s honorees are our educators. Education plays a central role for most Chinese families regardless of their economic situation or circumstances. It shouldn’t be too surprising that the largest group of heroes and noble contributors are educators. Some have dual roles and a few have triple roles. Those with dual roles include Dr. Henry T. Yang, Professor and Chancellor of UC Santa Barbara; Dr. Alice Huang, Professor and Virologist; Dr. Judy Yung, Professor and Historian; Dr. Betty Lee Sung, Professor and Historian; Dr. S. B. Wu, Professor and Social Activist; Dr. Wu Jien-xiung, Professor and Nuclear Scientist; Dr. Ray J. Wu, Professor and Biochemical Scientist; Dr. Shing-tung Yau, Professor and Mathematician; Dr. Samuel Chao Chung Ting, Professor and Physicist (and Nobel Prize winner); Dr. James Wei, Professor and Chemical Engineer; Dr. Roger Yonchien Tsien, Professor and Chemical Engineer (and Nobel Prize winner); Dr. Daniel Chee Tsui, Professor and Physicist (and Nobel Prize winner); Dr. Evelyn Lee, Professor and Clinical Psychologist; Dr. Tseng-Dao Lee, Professor and Physicist (and Nobel Prize winner); and Dr. Chih-Kung Jen, Professor and Physicist.

Triple contributors include Dr. Steven Chu,  the current US Secretary of Energy, former Director of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, and former Professor of physics and molecular and cellular biology at UC Berkeley (also Nobel Prize winner); Dr. Chang-Lin Tien, former Chancellor, UC Berkeley, Professor, and Scientist, Dr. Taylor Gun-Jin Wang, Professor, Scientist, and Astronaut.

We lead off our salute to educators with Dr. Chang-Lin Tien, followed by many of the Professors named in the previous paragraph.

For additional information about Chinese American heroes, please visit the Chinese American Heroes website at

chang-linName in English: Chang-Lin Tien
Name in Chinese: 田长霖 [田長霖]
Name in Pinyin: Tián Chánglín
Gender: Male
Birth Year: 1935 – 2002
Birth Place: Wuhan, China

Profession(s): Dr. Tien was a brilliant, world class engineer, an extraordinary professor, and superb Chancellor of the University of California, Berkeley, who served the UCB system for 42 years. He was exceptional in all his capacities from Assistant Professor, to Full Professor, to Chair of the Department of Mechanical Engineering, to Vice Chancellor of Research, to Executive Vice Chancellor at UC Irvine, and finally Chancellor of UC Berkeley from 1990-1997.
Education: BS/ME, 1955 National Taiwan University; MME/Heat Transfer, 1957 University of Louisville; MA and PhD/ME, 1959, Princeton University.
Awards: Dr. Tien Chang-lin’s long list of awards includes the highest international award in heat transfer, the Max Jakob Memorial Award. He also won the Gustus L. Larson Memorial Award and the Heat Transfer Memorial Award of the ASME, the Thermophysics Award of the AIAA; the Thermal Engineering Award for International Activity of the Japan Society of Mechanical Engineers; the 1996 Fellowship Award of the International Centre for Heat and Mass Transfer; the Golden Plate Award of the American Academy of Achievement; and the Harvard Foundation Award from Harvard University.

Contribution(s): Among his scientific accomplishments, Dr. Tien helped to solve the heat shield problems on board our space shuttle and was a primary contributor to the design of the Saturn booster rocket. He was a consultant at the nuclear power plant disasters at Three Mile Island and Chernobyl. Dr. Tien’s formulas for super insulation was included in the design of Japan’s high speed levitation trains. He raised $1.44 billion to compensate for the state budget cuts to the University. Dr. Tien was also an avid Community Activist and a leader in US-China relations serving as special assignments to China and Taiwan for President William Clinton. The Chancellor firmly believed in and fought for Affirmative Action. His positive attitude and devotion to justice and equality were qualities that were exemplary and admired.

Publications: Dr. Tien was an expert in thermal science and conducted researched on thermal radiation, thermal insulation, microscale thermal phenomena, fluid flow, phase-change energy transfer, heat pipes, reactor safety, cryogenics, and fire phenomena, authoring more than 300 research journal and monograph articles, 16 edited volumes, and one book.

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