The year 2009 marks the 80th anniversary of the discovery of the first skull of the Peking Man and the founding of the predecessor of the Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology (IVPP) of the Chinese Academy of Sciences.
The IVPP is proud to have had in its history such distinguished staff members as the late C. C. Young, Pei Wenzhong, Jia Lanpo, Chow Minchen, and Wu Rukang. This list must also include the institute’s luminous former employees such as the late Liu Dongsheng, a former president of the International Union for Quaternary Research and a laureate of Supreme National Science and Technology Prize of China. Like many other former IVPP staff members, they have been enshrined in our memories for their extraordinary contributions to the establishment, growth, and flourishing of the institute.
The past eighty years has witnessed the glorious history of the IVPP. The IVPP staff members have done fieldwork in all corners of China and made numerous newsworthy findings, including a number of scientifically significant and far-reaching discoveries. They have recovered a great amount of scientific and cultural treasures that belongs to both China and the world. The new generation of the IVPP staff has carried on the tradition of their predecessors, and continued to bring pleasant surprises to the world with their marvelous new discoveries. A group of young paleontologists, paleoanthropologists, and archeologists from the IVPP have now either become the backbone of the institute or been active in many other universities and museums. Many of them have already become internationally known experts in their own fields，and some even among the most active researchers. Standing on the shoulder of the giants, the young generation has taken advantage of historical opportunity of the open door policy and fast growing economy of China, and is adding new chapters to the already glorious history of the IVPP.
In the past eighty years, the IVPP has produced all the eight academicians of the Chinese Academy of Sciences in the field of vertebrate paleontology and paleoanthropology. The IVPP staff has published about 70 papers in “Nature” or “Science” alone since 1995. Many of researches have been awarded national science prizes. The impact of these discoveries and studies has been well beyond the scientific community and reached the general public around the world.
Despite being one of the smallest institutes in the Chinese Academy of Sciences, the IVPP enjoys a unique status in international scientific community. It is probably among the best known Chinese research institutes in the world, particularly in geological and biological sciences. The IVPP boasts a concentration of research staff specialized in all major areas of vertebrate paleontology and paleoanthropology anywhere in the world; it has Asia’s greatest collection of vertebrae and human fossils as well as the world’s largest technical and other support staff. Our researchers have also made significant contributions to popularizing paleontology, vertebrate and human evolution, and evolutionary theory; many of their popular articles and books have earned national honors.
Ever since the beginning years of the Cenozoic Research Laboratory (established in 1929), the IVPP has been well known for its international flavor, from its early research associates and collaborators such as Teilhard de Chardin, to almost all of the world’s leading vertebrate paleontologists and paleoanthropologists today. International collaborations and exchanges have developed rapidly during the recent years. Most IVPP scientists have had some experiences of studying or working in other countries. Eight postdocs from the US, Japan, England, and France have worked at the institute in recent years. We have also collaborated with many international institutions or universities to educate graduate students. The IVPP will continue its efforts to provide the funding opportunities for international post- and pre-doctorial students, and seek to co-sponsor and train international graduate students with the institutions overseas.
Vertebrate paleontology and paleoanthropology, as two of IVPP’s namesake disciplines, are probably entering in the golden age in China. Currently we are investing more efforts and resources on the establishment and expansion of open laboratories. In so doing, we hope more methods and new technologies will be applied to invigorate the old disciplines, stimulate the further growth, and encourage the interdisciplinary researches between biological sciences and earth sciences. At the same time, we strive to develop more collaboration with local governments and institutions in China.
We are indebted to the Chinese Academy of Sciences, the National Natural Science Foundation of China, the Ministry of Science and Technology of China, the Ministry of Land and Resources of China, the National Bureau of Cultural Relics of China, the Beijing City government, many other provincial governments, our peer institutes, universities and museums, as well as colleagues and friends from around the world for their great support and help in the past. Without their supports, the IVPP would not have been as successful as we are today.
We strongly believe excellent and productive scientists are the key to the success of the institute. We will continue our efforts to attract young talents from around the world adhering to the open and fair policy. It is my sincere hope that the past glory fosters new hopes, and our efforts today will become the legacy for the future generations of the IVPP staff.
Director: Zhonghe Zhou