Zhou Youguang, the inventor of the pinyin system of writing Chinese, has died at 111 — a remarkable age in any event, but especially so for someone born in his time and place. I hadn’t known about him, but he led quite a life; Margalit Fox has a fine obit at the NY Times:
[…] It is to Pinyin that we owe now-ubiquitous spellings like Beijing, which supplanted the earlier Peking; Chongqing, which replaced Chungking; Mao Zedong instead of Mao Tse-tung; and thousands of others. The system was adopted by the International Organization for Standardization in 1982 and by the United Nations in 1986.
Yet for all Mr. Zhou’s linguistic influence, his late-life political opposition — in 2015, the news agency Agence France-Presse called him “probably China’s oldest dissenter” — ensured that he remained relatively obscure in his own country.
“Within China, he remains largely uncelebrated,” The New York Times wrote in 2012. “As the state-run China Daily newspaper remarked in 2009, he should be a household name but is virtually unknown.”
It took Mr. Zhou and his colleagues three years to develop Pinyin, but the most striking thing about his involvement was that he was neither a linguist nor a lexicographer but an economist, recently returned to China from Wall Street. […]
And Victor Mair has a touching post at the Log:
You were my dear friend for decades. I wish that you had gone on living forever. You will be sorely missed, but yours was a life well lived. […]