Nobel Prize Winner Roger Yonchien Tsien and Wendy Globe (AMWF History)

Since the Nobel committee introduced this year’s prize winners in early October, it’s the perfect time to salute Nobel laureates in AMWF history.

Today, I’d like to spotlight the late American biochemist Roger Yonchien Tsien, who won the Nobel Prize in 2008 (along with two other scientists) for his brilliant work in with the green fluorescent protein:

Combining his deep skills in chemistry and biology, Tsien found ways to make GFP glow more brightly and consistently; then he created a full palette of fluorescent proteins that scientists could use to track different cellular processes at the same time.

His remarkable scientific career took him to some of the most celebrated institutions in the world (Harvard, Cambridge University, University of California – Berkeley) before ultimately settling in as a professor at University of California at San Diego. And in particular, Tsien’s time as a post-doctoral research fellow in Cambridge University expanded his knowledge – and his love life:

…Tim [Tsien’s collaborator] and his wife Norma invited me to their Christmas party in 1976, where I first met their sister-in-law, Wendy. Soon I was spending every weekend visiting Wendy at her house in North London. When Tim and Norma found out several months later, they were quite astonished at the effectiveness of their entirely unintentional matchmaking. Wendy (Figures 3–4) is still the love of my life.

There’s something delightfully touching about a scientist who weaves his wife into a Nobel autobiography, in figures no less. 😉

Additionally, his autobiography offers some fascinating tidbits about himself and his past. For example, he wasn’t really named after his older brother’s childhood playmate, as he had originally thought:

Much later, perhaps when I was in college, I quizzed Dick about this mysterious namesake. Dick confessed that he actually named me after Roy Rogers, the famous cowboy actor.

Also, he described himself as “mystified” over his first prize win at the Westinghouse Talent Search, now the Intel Science Talent Search, which ultimately led to an additional unexpected benefit, beyond the $10,000 scholarship:

One of the most satisfying compliments I received was that the developer who had not wanted to sell a house to Mom and Dad in 1960 now used my photo in one of their advertisements as evidence of the quality of the local school system.

Tsien passed away in 2016 in Eugene, Oregon at 64 years of age, while on a bike trail. His wife called him “the adventurer, the pathfinder, the free and soaring spirit” and said, “He will not be forgotten.”

What do you think of Roger Yonchien Tsien and Wendy Globe?

Photo credit: By Prolineserver (talk) – Own work, GFDL 1.2,

Nobel Prize Winning Physicist Samuel Chao Chung Ting and Susan Marks (AMWF History)

Since the Nobel committee introduced this year’s prize winners last week, it’s the perfect time to salute Nobel laureates in AMWF history.

Today, I’d like to give a nod to American physicist Samuel Chao Chung Ting (丁肇中), honored in 1976, along with Burton Richter, for this breakthrough in physics:

In order to search for new particles at a higher mass, I brought my group back to the United States in 1971 and started an experiment at Brookhaven National Laboratory. In the fall of 1974 we found evidence of a new, totally unpredicted, heavy particle – the J particle. Since then a whole family of new particles has been found.

Ting also broke new ground when it came to his love life. The Chinese American married twice — first to Kay Louise Kuhne (with whom he had two daughters, Jeanne and Amy), and later in 1985 to his current wife Dr. Susan Marks (with whom he has a son named Christopher).

While obviously Ting is remembered for his achievements in physics, you’ve got to appreciate his courage when he first came to the US from China to study:

In China, I had read that many American students go through college on their own resources. I informed my parents that I would do likewise. I arrived at the Detroit airport on 6 September 1956 with $100, which at the time seemed more than adequate. I was somewhat frightened, did not know anyone, and communication was difficult.

And yet he succeeded, beyond imagination. His entire autobiography at the Nobel Prize site is inspiring and worth a read.

Upon accepting his Nobel Prize at the banquet, Ting would say, “I hope that awarding the Nobel Prize to me will awaken the interest of students from the developing nations so that they will realize the importance of experimental work.”

What do you think of Samuel Chao Chung Ting?

Photo credit: By Toastforbrekkie – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,

AMWF History: Frank Soo, the First Asian Soccer Player in England

As soccer fever grips the globe with the start of the World Cup, it’s the perfect time to remember some long-forgotten soccer greats from the past, such as Frank Soo, the first Asian soccer player in the English football league as well as the first person of color to represent England in international matches.

By all accounts, Frank Soo – who was born in 1914 to Our Quong Soo, a Chinese sailor, and Beatrice Williams, a white English woman – was a spectacular player of his time:

“Anyone reading match reports from the time or interviews with supporters who watched him play can see how highly regarded he was for the elegance and skill of his play,” she says.

“In his time, he was also regarded as one of the best by his fellow players, like Joe Mercer and Stan Mortensen and it wasn’t uncommon for Stoke City fans to say that Frank Soo was ‘better than Matthews’.”

Soo broke into the first team not long after Matthews, and Stoke fostered a reputation for intelligent, skillful football that made them one of the most celebrated sides in the country.

In the sides of Mather and his replacement Bob McGrory, Soo was a star in the Potteries and would later captain the men in Red and White.

Frank Soo’s soccer career spanned the 1930s and 1940s, eras known for overt and aggressively racist behavior against minorities in England. Given that many of today’s nonwhite players must still endure racist treatment on the field, Soo surely had it harder, despite how there are few records of racist incidents against him, beyond slurs (such as “Chinaman”). And did race impact his soccer career? “Soo himself suggested in 1975 that his relatively few appearances for the national team came down to his “oriental blood”,” as reported by Planet Football.

Following in the footsteps of his father, Frank Soo also married a white English woman (Beryl Freda Lunt) in 1938, though their relationship ended in tragedy when she died of a drug overdose in March 1952.

You can learn more about Frank Soo by reading The Wanderer: The Story of Frank Soo by Susan Gardiner, watching this BBC video and also by visiting The Frank Soo Foundation, an organization that aims to continue Soo’s legacy in the UK by supporting “a player of Chinese or East Asian descent to an official home nation cap.” (Let’s hope the foundation makes it happen!)

What do you think of Frank Soo’s story?

Indian Man Bikes to Sweden to Marry White Woman in 1970s

A broke, “untouchable” art student from India and a woman descended from Swedish nobility fell for each other during a chance meeting in Delhi in 1975. And their seemingly improbable love affair eventually paved the way for him to travel 3,600 kilometers from India to Sweden in 1977, with only $80 in his pocket, a bicycle and a promise of marriage to her upon arrival.

If this doesn’t count as one of the most romantic gestures ever witnessed across the world, I don’t know what does.

CNN reported on the love story of Charlotte Von Schedvin and PK Mahanandia, noting that his mother even predicted early in life that he would marry a white woman. So when they had their second encounter in Delhi, India, here’s what happened:

When she returned, a realization dawned on Mahanandia. Could Von Schedvin be the western woman in his horoscope?

For the first time, that night Mahanandia says he prayed to the elephant god Ganesh. He wanted Von Schedvin to come back so he could ask if she was a Taurus.

“When I saw her at the traffic lights, I got nervous in the stomach. I put on my easel, ‘artist is sick’,” he said.

Then came the questions.

She was a Taurus.

She played the piano.

She owned forests — indeed, Von Schedvin’s ancestors had been given a portion of Swedish woodland after helping the King in the 1700s.

“I became shaky,” said Mahanandia. “I said: ‘It’s decided in the heavens, we are destined to meet each other.’ She was shocked!” …

Trusting her instinct, Von Schedvin followed Mahanandia to meet his father in Odisha, where the couple received tribal blessings.

“I didn’t think, I just followed my heart 100%. There was no logic,” she said.

“When I was with her, I felt taller than the sky,” said Mahanandia. “I was no longer an outcast. It changed my attitude to myself inside.”

After spending a month together in India, the two remained in touch through written letters – and eventually Mahanandia proposed his epic bicycle journey to reunite in Sweden and get married.

His trip would take him from Delhi, India, through Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran, Turkey and the former Yugoslavia into Europe. At the time, it was a safe and well-established route known and the “Hippie Trail” and travelers didn’t require visas to pass through, facilitating Mahanandia’s extraordinary feat to bicycle so far for love:

Setting off on two wheels, Mahanandia left Delhi with just $80. But he arrived in Sweden with more than $800 — painting portraits for food and money along the way.

Though some days he cycled up to 70km, the artist admits he got lifts wherever possible — even being gifted a train ticket from Istanbul to Vienna.

“Sometimes you’d get two or three hitchhiking offers and you’d have to choose!” said Mahanandia. “I bicycled for love, but I never loved biking.”

He arrived in Boras on 28 May 1977, over four months after his departure.

The couple have been married for over 40 years, with two children, and continue to pass on the power of love to others, such as through offering cultural scholarships to others of the “untouchable” caste in India.

You can read the full story at CNN.

What do you think?

Australian Women Who Married Indonesian Men, Supported Indonesian Independence in 1940s

In the story of Indonesia’s fight for independence in the 1940s, Australian women were a part of the cause — and for some of them, it became personal enough to change their lives forever.

These Australian women married Indonesian men.

For some, their personal relationships brought them into the cause for Indonesian independence. For others, it was politics that led them to forge these relationships. But regardless, this happened at a time when racial segregation was still enforced in Australia.

One of these women was Lotte Maramis. Her husband Anton was among the Indonesians in exile in Australia after Japanese invasion. While Lotte wasn’t initially that politically active, that changed through her relationship with Anton. She met him through social gatherings in private homes:

Lotte fell in love with Anton Maramis, a Manadonese petty officer, and married him with her family’s support, although she battled much antagonism from the broader Australian public she encountered. Many other young Australian women faced strong opposition from families and friends to the decisions they made to marry their Indonesian fiancés and return with them to their homes once Independence had been declared.

But Lotte’s relationship with Anton was one that “proved strong enough to embrace and flourish in the very different society and cultures they found in Indonesia.”

Australian Molly Bondan offers a different example — for her, politics came first and then led to those personal relationships that developed into marriage:

Molly moved from helping to set up the new Australia-Indonesia Society, to developing a personal relationship with Mohammed Bondan, an ex-Digulist who was active contacting the new Indonesian government. Bondan and Molly moved to Brisbane in September 1945 to set up CENKIM, the Central Committee for Indonesian Intelligence and Molly herself took on a role operating the radio to receive broadcasts from the Republican government and writing the press releases to circulate the news. She married Bondan and they began a life together which continued when she joined him in Indonesia where she remained for the rest of her life.

In fact, after moving to Indonesia with their husbands, Molly and Lotte remained involved in supporting the newly independent country. They served as interpreters and journalists, and covered some major stories (such as the first Afro-Asian conference in Bandung 1955).

If you would like to read the full piece in detail, head on over to the website for the Australia National Maritime Museum and read Personal and Political — Australian Women and Indonesian Independence.

What do you think of this story?

German Esther Haubensack, a China TV Star, Married Beijing Taxi Driver

Esther Haubensack
A screenshot from “Wailai Xifu, Bendi Lang” featuring Esther Haubensack as Diana.

German Esther Haubensack (Hao Lianlu, 郝莲露) is best known in China as the American wife Diana in the popular Chinese TV series “Wailai Xifu, Bendi Lang” (外来媳妇本地郎), which has aired since 2000 and tells the story of a Chinese family in Guangzhou with four sons and their “outside” wives (whether from outside their region or outside the country). She has impressed many viewers by her ability to speak excellent Cantonese in her role, a language that some consider even more challenging than Mandarin.

But she has also captured the hearts of the Chinese public for another reason – in real life, she married a local Beijing taxi driver.

Esther Haubensack studied Mandarin and ancient Chinese at Peking University in the early 1990s and learned under the legendary cross-talk artist Ding Guangquan, who also mentored Dashan (aka Mark Roswell), one of China’s biggest foreign celebrities.

But while she was a student, she also met Wang Hongye, a Beijing taxi driver. At the time, she wasn’t so familiar with Beijing, and Wang was happy to serve as her “guide,” showing her all around the city. An article published in Chinese on Sina talks about how their courtship and eventual marriage, and here’s my translation of that excerpt:

Every time they went out to dinner, Wang Hongye would actively pay the bill. Hao Lianlu [Esther Haubensack] would feel embarrassed, and beneath the table would secretly stuff money [into his hands]. Hao Lianlu said, “I knew he didn’t have money in his pocket, but I also couldn’t allow him to lose face.”

After she finished her studies at Peking University, she decided to marry Wang Hongye. This international love really wasn’t as romantic as imagined. Hao Lianlu said, her husband had never said words like, “I love you.” The two of them together was just one small bit of everyday life.

Esther Haubensack and Wang Hongye got married in 1995. Nowadays, they reside with their two children in Guangzhou, where Haubensack has taken on a number of TV roles including Diana in “Wailai Xifu, Bendi Lang” (外来媳妇本地郎). She credits Wang for being a very supportive husband, as chronicled in this report:

She said, “Luckily, my husband is always there with me. He cooks for me, shares the chores, and takes care of the children when I am busy. To help me adhere to breast[feeding], he took the child to travel around with me during that period of time. Sometimes, I would go to the studio at 8:00 am and come back at noon to feed the child; if I get no time to come back home, he would take the child to the studio, so that I can make time to feed the child. Without him, I couldn’t have pulled all this off. He is always there for me.”

In a China where many still believe men should be the major breadwinners in the family, it’s refreshing to see a guy like Wang Hongye truly stepping up so his wife could still have her career.

Esther Haubensack
A screenshot from “Wailai Xifu, Bendi Lang” featuring Esther Haubensack as Diana.

If you would like to watch Esther Haubensack in action, take a look at these videos on Youtube and QQ video.

Have you heard of Esther Haubensack before or her marriage to taxi driver Wang Hongye? What do you think of her story?

Chinese Gymnast Li Donghua Marries Swiss Woman, Wins Olympic Gold After Great Hardships

By Christophe95 – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,

Team or love. That was the choice that Chinese Olympic gymnast Li Donghua faced in 1988 when he fell for Esperanza Friedli, a young Swiss woman he met in Beijing when she was visiting China that year, as reported by China Daily. Li could either stay with China’s national gymnastics team or wed Friedli, but not both.

By then, Li was accustomed to hardship, surviving a number of devastating injuries in the course of his gymnastics career with China, including one that nearly claimed his life. Even if he stayed with the team, he would only serve as a coach, which meant he couldn’t continue pursuing his dreams of Olympic gold.

So Li Donghua left the team to marry Esperanza Friedli.

Their joyous reunion, however, couldn’t satisfy his longtime goal of medaling at the Games — which is why the couple moved to Switzerland. But the move put Li Donghua’s Olympic ambitions on hold:

Swiss law stipulated that immigrants married to Swiss nationals must wait five years to acquire Swiss nationality, which meant that Li would have to wait that long before he could compete internationally.  Li ended up watching the bulk of his prime athletic years, including 1992 and the Barcelona Olympics, agonizingly tick away.

Those years were tough on him:

He had to train without any funds and his only coach was a set of video tapes.

“I had to rent the apparatus and install them by myself, but I was jobless.

“At first, there was naturally much jealousy from local gymnasts, and many Swiss did not understand why they should have a Chinese person on their team.

His wife Esperanza struggled during this time to support Li with her job at a department store.

By the time the 1996 Summer Olympics began, Li Donghua was already a decorated gymnast, winning bronze in 1994 and gold in 1995 at the World Artistic Gymnastics Championship. In Atlanta, Li finally realized his Olympic hopes, walking away with a gold medal on the pommel horse.

You have to love what he said of his Olympic win:

“There is no question in my mind,” Li said six months later, “half of this medal is mine and half of it is Esperanza’s.”

While Li Donghua and his Swiss wife ultimately divorced in 2004, their legendary story of overcoming hardships for love and Olympic gold lives on.

Want to read more coverage of Olympic-related stories? Check out our Olympics archives, where you’ll find Olympic Speedskater Shaolin Sandor Liu Has a Cool China Connection Beyond His Chinese Father and 9 Awesome Olympic Moments from Asian Figure Skaters Around the World.

AMWF History: Attila the Hun and Justa Grata Honoria

Justa Grata Honoria, pictured on Roman coins. By Classical Numismatic Group, Inc., CC BY-SA 3.0,

A few months ago, I blogged about Arcadio Huang and Marie-Claude Regnier, suggesting they might just stand as the earliest AMWF couple in recorded history.

But readers then responded with another possibility — what about Attila the Hun and Justa Grata Honoria, the sister of the Roman emperor?

In this scenario, we must assume Attila the Hun was East Asian or Eurasian, which some scholars have also suggested based on descriptions of Attila’s appearance.

Attila the Hun. By Peter d’Aprix –, CC BY-SA 3.0,

For those of you unfamiliar with the tale, it goes like this. While Attila the Hun was invading his way across Europe, supposedly Justa Grata Honoria secretly sent him her ring and a plea for help. She was hoping to escape an arranged marriage with a man her family considered “safe” for her – a man that clearly she wasn’t fond of. Now, Attila took the ring as a proposal to marry, though historians aren’t sure if this was Justa Grata Honoria’s intention.

In any event, once Honoria’s family discovered her overtures to Attila, they considered it treason – an accusation that would have lead to execution for Honoria, were it not for her mother’s intervention. But here’s the interesting thing, as explained by scholar J.B. Bury:

Attila, when he heard of her treatment, sent an embassy to Ravenna to vindicate her: she had done no wrong, she was affianced to him, and he would come to enforce her right to a share of the imperial power. Again when he was about to march to the Rhine at the beginning of 451, he sent a second embassy demanding her surrender, and gave his envoys her ring to show as a proof of the betrothal. It was as her champion that he invaded Italy in the following year, and, when he retreated, he threatened that he would do worse things unless the Augusta and her rightful inheritance were handed over to him.

In the end though, Attila the Hun and Justa Grata Honoria never were united as a couple, in marriage or otherwise. Here’s Bury’s explanation:

The design was frustrated, first by the energy of Aetius, then by plague, finally by Attila’s sudden death. In 451 he would have been master of Gaul, if Aetius had not succeeded, hardly and at the last moment, in mobilising the Visigoths. In 452 he had Italy at his mercy, and if disease had not broken out in his camp (for that certainly was the cause of his retreat), he could have compelled Valentinian to surrender Honoria. In 453 death only prevented him from coming again, and then he might well have been successful.

Reading about this story, one can’t help noticing how Justa Grata Honoria is vilified in many accounts about her and her proposal to Attila. Some have characterized her as the historical equivalent of a “wild woman” with a boundless thirst for sexual adventures. Whether or not this was true, it strikes me as another example of “slut-shaming” – and potentially, it was intentional. Again, Bury:

Our investigation has shown that the received view of Honoria as a profligate girl, who could not bridle her unchaste instincts…that this view cannot be sustained. I have little doubt that it was originated by Cassiodorus; the scandal gave him a welcome opportunity of denigrating a lady of the Theodosian house.

So are Attila the Huan and Justa Grata Honoria the earliest recorded example of an AMWF connection? Or were they just an intrigue in history? Share your thoughts in the comments!

AMWF History: Chinese Surgeon Qiu Fazu and His German Wife Loni Saved Jewish Prisoners During World War II

It’s April 30, 1945, a little over a week before unconditional surrender by Germany and the declaration of Victory Europe Day, ending World War II in Europe. Qiu Fazu, a German-educated Chinese surgeon, is the attending physician at a hospital in the Bavarian region of southern Germany. Suddenly, a nurse calls him to come out to the street in front of the hospital, where Qiu Fazu discovers a group of Jewish prisoners from a concentration camp, guarded by the SS. A death march. Here’s an account from The BMJ:

…Qiu remembered clearly that he was getting ready to operate when a nurse shouted that there were many prisoners from a concentration camp lying outside. He ran out of his room with his operation cap on, as he had already learnt what happened in the camp. More than 40 ragged prisoners were squatting down on the ground in the corner of a street. Sick and weak, they could not move any further. The SS troops standing there shouted at them and ordered them to stand up.

“I was shocked that they were not able to move any further,” Qiu recalled. He summoned up his courage and told the troops, “These prisoners have typhoid fever. Let me take them away.” The prisoners were released, and the doctors led them to the basement, saving their lives with careful nursing.

One of the supporting nurses, a German student named Loni, would become more to Qiu Fazu than just a colleague at the hospital. The two married soon after the war ended and moved to China in 1946, as he missed his homeland. They would have three children together, surviving the hardships of that tumultuous era known as the Cultural Revolution. The BMJ notes, “Qiu had to clean toilets—‘and this was the only time they were really clean,’ he used to joke. The family had to grow its own food, and he was sent into faraway rural areas to provide medical care for peasants.”

Nevertheless, Qiu Fazu rose to prominence in China, pioneering modern organ transplants in China and authoring a classic textbook on surgery still used in the country. Some have dubbed Qiu, who was a member of the Chinese Academy of Sciences from 1975 to 1983, “the father of modern surgery”.

Let’s remember Chinese surgeon Qiu Fazu and his German wife Loni, a couple who once helped save precious lives during World War II.

Arcadio Huang and Marie-Claude Regnier, the First AMWF Couple in Recorded History?

What’s the earliest example of an AMWF couple in recorded history? That distinction might just go to Arcadio Huang and Marie-Claude Regnier, who married in Paris in 1713.

Arcadio Huang was one of the first Chinese men to visit Europe, arriving in the early 1700s. He was the son of a Catholic convert in Fujian, and went abroad to initially fulfill his father’s wish that he become a priest. The religious orders, however, weren’t to his liking. So instead missionaries helped him settle in Paris, where he fulfilled a different destiny:

In the early years of the 18th century, European scholars made huge advances in their understanding of Chinese language and culture. Much of this work rested on the efforts of a remarkable young man named Arcadio Huang.

Huang became the Chinese interpreter for King Louis XIV of France, and began his groundbreaking work on a Chinese-French dictionary.

Along the way, Huang met and fell in love with a white French woman, Marie-Claude Regnier, who would become his lawfully wedded wife in 1713. According to research by Jonathan Spence, the couple faced some tough times:

Life was hard for Arcadio Huang in the autumn and early winter of 1713. Paris was bitterly cold and covered in fog. France’s long war over the Spanish Succession had demoralized the population, driven up the cost of food and eroded the value of money. Arcadio had married a young Parisian woman, Marie-Claude Regnier, in April 1713; their life quickly became a struggle for survival and self-respect. Their rented room in rue Guénégaud, on the south bank of the Seine across from Notre Dame cathedral, was always cold since they had not enough money for a regular supply of wood or coal. Their furniture was sparse, they had few clothes and they could not afford a decent matrimonial bed. Salt for their simple meals was too expensive. And, worst of all, on some mornings Huang would awaken spitting blood. After these episodes he felt a terrible lassitude and would need to rest in bed for hours.

Tragically, Marie-Claude would later die in childbirth in 1715. Huang passed away a year and a half later, leaving behind their daughter, who would die a few months after him. Nevertheless it is said the couple enjoyed a happy marriage during their short time together.

Let’s raise our collective glasses to Arcadio Huang and Marie-Claude Regnier, who might just be the first AMWF couple in recorded history in Europe, if not the world.