Qian Xuesen (1911-2009), also known as Hsue-Shen Tsien, was a Chinese physicist.
Qian was born in Hangzhou and studied at university in Shanghai. In 1935, he received a scholarship to study at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the United States. After receiving his master’s degree, Qian went to pursue a doctorate at the California Institute of Technology, where he helped to found NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. During World War II, Qian served on the U.S. government’s Scientific Advisory Board, rising to the rank of lieutenant colonel. He was sent to Germany to investigate laboratories and question German scientists, including Werner von Braun.
During the 1950s, the FBI stripped Qian’s security clearance over alleged communist ties. He was denied citizenship and returned to China in 1955. “I do not plan to come back,” declared Qian. “I have no reason to come back …. I plan to do my best to help the Chinese people build up the nation to where they can live with dignity and happiness.” According to former Navy Secretary Dan Kimball, deporting Qian “was the stupidest thing this country ever did. He was no more a Communist than I was, and we forced him to go.”
Upon his return to China, Qian was instrumental to the success of the Chinese space program and the Chinese nuclear program. Among his many achievements, Qian led the development of the Dongfeng missile series.
Qian Xuesen died on October 31, 2009 in Beijing.