[FPSPACE] Iris Chang Dead
zirconic1 at earthlink.net
Thu Nov 11 08:37:55 EST 2004
From: Morris Jones <morrisjones at hotmail.com>
Iris Chang, author of "Thread of the Silkworm" (Chinese space program) has
died, apparently from suicide. She was 36.
The story appeared on www.japantoday.com.
We have lost a good space historian.
This is a shame. But a slight correction--she was not really a "space historian," because she devoted most of her time to Asian history in general.
Back when her book came out I reviewed it for IEEE Spectrum. A couple of months later I got a nice note from her thanking me for my (positive) review. She said that her husband was an engineer and his co-workers had seen my review and were really impressed by his wife. She asked if I was interested in Japanese military history and wanted to review her upcoming book. But I don't really have a lot of knowledge of that field, so I declined.
That next book was The Rape of Nanking, and it was a critical and financial success. A best seller, I believe. According to Chang, it was (probably still is) common in Japan to deny that this ever happened. Japanese school textbooks mention the late 1930s attack on Nanking in a paragraph or less, usually only referring to the "occupation" of the city. But the reality is that Japanese troops seized the city relatively easily and then went on a rampage, killing up to 300,000 civilians. What Chang discovered is that although the Japanese act as if this did not happen, it turns out that there is substantial evidence, even in Japanese archives. When she was doing her research she discovered hundreds of photographs taken by Japanese troops of the slaughter. It was common to take souvenir photos of a soldier beheading a Chinese civilian with a samurai sword and she found a lot of these.
Her book led to several others, including one that was a collection of these brutal photographs. I believe that there was also an academic conference on this subject as well. And all of this attention made it harder for the Japanese to deny it. She did some valuable historical work there, and we have clearly lost an important scholar.
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