Female, original name Jiahui, born in Wuzhen, a world-famous Chinese agronomist, has made outstanding contributions to wheat breeding. Her grandfather Shanzheng was good at actuarial calculus. He has been in charge of dialect hall for decades. Her father, Chengyi, with the poetic name of Boxin, was the Doctor of Law of the University of Paris in France.
In 1921, Shen Liying graduated from Shenzhou Women's Middle School and then she had taught at Zhenhua Female School in Suzhou for three years. Later she studied botany at Wellesley Women's University in the United States with a Bachelor of Science degree and then entered Cornell University to study agriculture for two years. During her stay in the United States, when listening to professor's introduction of the world's academic progress, he/she enumerated the names and nationalities of academic experts all over the world only except China in order to encourage students. Liying was so sorrow that she was determined to devote herself to science and better serving China. Returning to China in 1917, at first she became an agricultural technician of Zhejiang Provincial Construction Department. Then she was engaged in the research of rice and wheat varieties improvement. In 1923, she was appointed as the Chief Technician of the Central Agricultural Laboratory. Since then, she had been to Jiangsu, Anhui, Hunan, Guangxi, Sichuan, Guizhou and other provinces to test wheat hybridization. Nine kinds she selected were fine wheat varieties, which had a yield of 20-50 kg per mu higher than that of the local wheat. They were suitable for planting in a wide range and had strong disease resistance. The maturity period was 5 to 10 days earlier, and they did not hinder the early sowing of rice. Among them, “Zhongnong 18” was cultivated through seven years of unremitting efforts, after comparative experiments among more than 1700 varieties of wheat in the world. This improved variety was disease-resistant, early mature, with a high yield and high quality. It was suitable for China, especially for Sichuan, Hubei, Guizhou, Shaanxi and other provinces. Since 1926, it has been popularized in a large area. The average yield per mu of wheat in Chengdu was 20.5 kg higher than that of the local wheat in the three-year comparative test, achieving a great success.
Shen Liying was engaged in the scientific research, with insight, perseverance, precision and diligence. She often walked barefoot in the mud in the heavy wind and rain to examine the tested crops one by one. When the Anti-Japanese War broke out, the Ministry of Agriculture of the Central Committee abolished all female staff members, Liying firmly refused to leave. She earnestly expressed that she was willing to not receive salary and left to complete the test. "I work for my career, not for money," she said. The government withdrew from Nanjing. When she began to exile with her three children as a pregnant woman, she was still carrying test records and seed boxes over the years, traveling thousands of miles from Ningxia to Hunan and then to Guizhou, finally arrived in Rongchang County, Sichuan Province. During the travel, she often said that "During the Anti-Japanese War, a drop of petrol is a drop of blood of the people". She refused to hire cars and travelled hard in the road to Sichuan. In 1928, she suffered from severe pain in both legs, but still bore with tears, could not forget her duty. Whenever harvest in the field, she always went to observe and record the characteristics of the crops and even forgot her pain.
Shen Liying was immersed in the fields and lab and worked hard all day, thus falling sick. On October 7, 1941, she suffered from sudden cerebral haemorrhage and died in Rongchang Central Agricultural Laboratory at age of 40. After her death, the National Government made a grand commendation, and all area of people in Chongqing mourned deeply. Feng Yuxiang and his wife Li Dequan, Deng Yingchao, Deng Chumin, Zhang Shenfu, Shi Liang, Xie Bingxin and others went to mourn. Dong Biwu wrote a five-character poem for mourning; Deng Yingchao and Bingxin wrote articles to memory her; and Fei Xiaotong, her student, wrote an article "An Unopened Letter in Memory of Mr. Shen Liying (honorific in that time)" to express his respect for Mr. Shen Liying.
Shen Liying has 22 works, most of which are translated and then published in English and American journals of crop breeding and biology, and often cited by scholars of various countries. Therefore, Qian Tianhe, a famous agronomist, praised her: "Mr. Shen is a rare scientist in the agriculture, and her position is so high that few people could keep pace with her today."
Liying's husband, Dr. Shen Zonghan, is also a famous agricultural expert and Director of the Central Agricultural Laboratory. They have four children. Junshan, the eldest son, was only nine years old when Liying died.Keyword: