Gerontology Wiki
Zhou Youguang
Zhou Youguang
Birth: 13 January 1906
Changzhou, Jiangsu, China
Death: 14 January 2017
Beijing, China
Age: 111 years, 1 day
Country: ChinaCHN

Zhou Youguang [Chinese: 周有光 ; Pinyin: Zhōu Yǒuguāng] (13 January 1906 – 14 January 2017) was a Chinese linguist and sinologist noted as the "father of Pinyin". His supercentenarian status is currently unvalidated.

Education and early career

Zhou Youguang was born as Zhou Yaoping in Changzhou, Jiangsu Province (then part of Qing Empire) on 13 January 1906. Zhou enrolled in St. John's University, Shanghai, in 1923, where he majored in economics and took supplementary coursework in linguistics. He left during the May Thirtieth Movement of 1925 and transferred to Guanghua University, from which he graduated in 1927. Zhou spent time as an exchange student in Japan, and spent his early career working as a banker and economist overseas (mainly in New York City), but returned to Shanghai in 1949 when the People's Republic was established.

Designing Pinyin

In 1955, the government placed Zhou at the head of a committee to reform the Chinese language in order to increase literacy. While other committees oversaw the tasks of promulgating Mandarin Chinese as the national language and creating simplified Chinese characters, Zhou's committee was charged with developing a romanization to represent the pronunciation of Chinese characters. Zhou says the task took about three years, and was a full-time job. Pinyin was made the official romanization in 1958, although then (as now) it was only a pronunciation guide, not a substitute writing system.

Personal life

Zhou was married to Zhang Yunhe from 30 April 1933 to her death on 14 August 2002; the couple were married for 69 years, 106 days and had two children: a daughter Zhou Xiaohe (1935–1941) who died at the age of 6, and a son Zhou Xiaoping (1934–2015) who died at the age of 80 on 26 January 2015. He most recently lived in Beijing.

He died on 14 January 2017 at his home in Beijing at the age of 111 years, 1 day.