Ching Chun "C.C." Li was born in Tianjin, China, in 1912. He received his bachelor’s degree in agronomy from the University of Nanking before coming to the United States for a doctorate in plant breeding and genetics at Cornell University. He returned to China and, in 1946, joined National Beijing University where he later served as chair of the agronomy department and wrote his first book, Population Genetics, at age 34. With the introduction of the Communist government to China in 1949, Li and his family fled to Hong Kong. American colleagues recommended the geneticist to Thomas Parran, former U.S. surgeon general and first dean of the newly created University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health. Li joined GSPH’s faculty in 1951, served as chair of the biostatistics department from 1969 to 1975, and officially retired in 1982 (though he would publish another 25 papers and continue to come to his Pitt Public Health office every day until a few months before his death). Li's textbooks, including First Course in Population Genetics, are considered classics in the field and have been translated into several languages. A fellow of the American Statistical Association and the American Association for the Advancement of Science, he also served as president of the American Society of Human Genetics and was a member of the International Statistical Institute. In 1998 the American Society of Human Genetics presented him with its Award for Excellence in Human Genetics Education. Li died on October 20, 2003, just seven days shy of his 91st birthday.
Photos of C.C Li from October 2002
Info on the C.C. Li Memorial Lecture
I first met C.C. Li when I was a graduate student at UCLA and C.C. teaching a course in population genetics as a visiting scholar. While his class was very good and I learned a lot, I had no idea that later I would be fortunate enough to come to Pittsburgh to his department.
Shortly after my arrival in Pittsburgh in the early 1990s, I had the pleasure of working with C.C. on a paper dealing with the probability of a random match between the two DNA profiles of a pair of individuals. The mathematics was challenging, and it was difficult to visualize exactly what was going on in our multidimensional model. Then, one morning, C.C. came into my office with an elegant three-dimensional paper model that he had made that provided great insight into the properties of our model. I kept this wonderful paper model on top of my computer monitor for many years as a gentle reminder that the best mathematical modeling often results from sharp intellectual insight, rather than from extensive computer-based simulations.