The central dragon on the Dragon Wall in the Forbidden City, Beijing.

The central  Dragon on the Dragon Wall in the Forbidden City, Beijing

Tribute to Academician Professor Ma Hsingyuan, Ph.D. (Edinburgh)

by Donald B. McIntyre

I pay tribute to the memory of an old friend, Professor Ma Hsingyuan. After a long illness he died aged 82 in Beijing on 22 January 2001. He is survived by his wife; a son & two daughters; one grandson & two granddaughters). We met in Edinburgh in 1945 or 1946, but global politics prevented all communication between us from 1948 to 1985.

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Glenmore Lodge 1946 McIntyre & Ma, Highlands 1947 McIntyre & Ma, Highlands 1947? Ma, Beijing 1986
1. 2. 3. 4.
Glenmore Lodge, 1946.
Ma on left,
McIntyre on right
McIntyre, MA, & Baikie.
Highlands, 1946?
McIntyre & Ma.
Highlands, 1947?
MA, Beijing, 1986
McIntyre & MA, Berkeley, 1985 Ann, Ma & MaLi 1986 Ann & 3 Ma generations Ma at our Banquet, 1986
5. 6. 7. 8.
Moment of reunion.
March 1985
Ann, Ma,& Ma Li.
Seismological Bureau.
Beijing, 1986
Ann, Ma & three Ma generations Ma at our Banquet,
Beijing, 1986
Early seismometer seismometer detail child with abacus IBM computer shop
9. 10. 11. 12.
Early seismometer.
An earthquake makes
a ball drop into the
frog's mouth.
Children carry an
abacus to school.
Computer shop. Beijing.
An abacus was used
when an IBM PC was purchased
here in 1986.
APL class, Beijing, 1986 The Great Wall The Great Wall Farewell at Beijing Station
13. 14. 15. 16.
APL Class.
State Seismological Bureau, Beijing
The Great Wall The Great Wall
beyond tourists
Beijing station, 1986

Ma Xingyuan and I were graduate students under Professor Arthur Holmes in Edinburgh. I knew Ma well; he stayed for at least a few days in our family home at 5 Abbotsford Crescent, and my mother was his dancing partner on two occasions! My sister knew Ma well enough to correspond with him after communication was restored in 1986.

Ma was one on the instructors I enrolled for the first mountaineering course held at Glenmore Lodge in 1946 (Photo 1.). Although we went together on geological and mountaineering trips to the Highlands, I don't now recall the details (Photos 2 & 3). Ma worked on the migmatites of the Rogart area in Sutherland, and I visited him in the field. The title of his thesis is "The Origin of the Rocks of Ach'uaine and Appinite Types in the Rogart Area, Sutherland (A Petrological and Geochemical Study of Granitisation Phenomena in the Rogart District, Sutherland". He received his Ph.D. in 1948. He also published "On the occurrence of agmatite in the Rogart migmatite area, Sutherland: a study of granitisation", (Geological Magazine, Vol. LXXXV, 1948).

In the summer of 1947 Professor Holmes sent me to Neuchâtel to study for a year with Professor C.E. Wegmann. I was then to returning to Edinburgh to take the place vacated by Dr R.M. Craig on his retiral. Soon after my arrival in Neuchâtel Ma joined me. In addition to a geological tour of Switzerland and Liechtenstein (along with Martin Kürsten, a young Swiss geologist who had met us in Edinburgh) we spent some time at Basle where Professor Max Reinhard taught us how to determine the composition of plagioclase feldspars by U-Stage methods. Professor Reinhard's book, (Universal Drehtischmethoden: Einfuehrung in die Kristalloptischen Grundbegriffe und die Plagioklasbestimmung, 1931) is the classic reference work. Reinhard's own teacher had been student of Federov – the originator of the Universal Stage. Professor Reinhard's assistant, Dr Wenk, was particularly helpful during our stay in Basle.

Although neither Ma or I made much use of the U-stage for the study of feldspars, what we learned was critical to our later work on Sander's petrofabrics (Innsbruck) and Wegmann's use of the stereographic projection (Neuchâtel) for what became known as pi and beta diagrams in macroscopic structural geology. Both Ma and I later (independently) applied these tools in seismology (first-motion studies).

In 1947 the idea of granitisation was being hotly debated. Arthur and Doris Holmes made Edinburgh an important centre in this debate, which accounts for Ma's work on the Rogart migmatites. Although I had visited Ma while he was working at Rogart, I was in Switzerland when he completed his Edinburgh degree. In the autumn of 1948 I returned from Neuchâtel, timing my arrival in London to coincide with the International Geological Congress, at which I was Mrs Holmes' assistant in organising one of the sections. Ma gave a paper his work on the Rogart migmatites.

Having taken up my first teaching postion, I was very busy when I returned to Edinburgh, and I do not remember when Ma returned to China. Perhaps it was immediately after the IGC. Ma sent me a card from Shanghai reporting his safe return to his own country, but about a week later all communication between us was abruptly terminated. The Communists gained control of Manchuria in November 1948, and – as I recall – in January 1949 Beijing (Peking) fell. For the next 37 years I had no way of knowing whether Ma was live or dead.

Senior Chinese geologists are stratified in an interesting way: Ma was one of the few Chinese scientists who studied in the U.K. (and the only one who came to Edinburgh for geology) during the period between the Second World War and the Communist Revolution. Older Chinese scientists – if they had studied abroad – had probably studied in Germany. Younger Chinese scientists – those who went abroad during the Cultural Revolution – studied in the U.S.S.R. or eastern Europe. Richard Nixon visited China in 1972, and, after the rapprochement between the two countries, the United States was the place where Chinese scientists wanted to go to study.

In March 1985 - to my great astonishment - Ma telephoned me in Claremont, California, from New York. Ma was leading a mission of Chinese seismologists and was about to leave for Berkeley. A day or two later we met at the San Francisco airport (no mean feat!) and went together to the Berkeley campus. Ma was then Director of the State Seismological Bureau in Beijing and President of the Geological Society of China. Our time together was short, but Ma proposed that I should visit Beijing and teach his colleagues and students about the application of computers to geology. I accepted and in 1986 my wife, Ann, and I were warmly received in Beijing. I gave lectures and workshops on computing and geology at the State Seismological Bureau, the Wuhan College of Geology in Beijing, and the University of Nanjing. (Photos 4-16) I cannot say much about Ma's employment during the years of cultural destruction - he had survived too many swings of political fortune to talk about these experiences. It was interesting to know that he had been able to trace my movements and activities through the geological literature, and then from C. Barry Raleigh (a former student of mine at Pomona who became Chief of Seismology for the USGS and Director of the Lamont Geological Observatory) who led the first team of seismologists to visit China.