UC Berkeley professor emeritus Chin Long Chiang dies at 99

Chin Long Chiang, professor emeritus at the UC Berkeley School of Public Health, died April 1, leaving behind a legacy of contributions to the field of biostatistics during his career of more than 40 years on campus. He was 99.

Born and raised in China, Chiang traveled with his wife to the United States in 1946. Two years later, he earned a master’s degree in statistics and, five years later, obtained his doctorate in statistics, earning both degrees from UC Berkeley.

“He was very proud to be a part of Berkeley — it was like his second family,” said Harriet Chiang, his daughter.

Chiang was one of the first to recognize biostatistics as a separate field of study from statistics. One of his most significant contributions to the field was transforming the use of life tables, which attempt to determine life expectancy and mortality rates. Chiang developed a statistical method that could be applied to life tables, eventually working with the World Health Organization, National Institutes of Health and other organizations to understand the health of different populations.

Chiang was awarded the Berkeley Citation for his achievements in the field when he retired in 1987, although he continued to teach after his retirement. Chiang also authored five books and traveled the world as a visiting professor at various universities.

“He was always a great supporter of my work and getting me going at Berkeley, which I deeply appreciated and still do, even though it’s a long time ago now,” said Nicholas Jewell, a biostatistics and statistics professor and the head of UC Berkeley’s biostatistics division, whom Chiang recruited in 1981.

“He was a truly amazing person who touched a lot of people — and a truly beloved human being,” Harriet Chiang said. He was a family man who loved playing games with his grandsons and always let them win, she said.

Chiang is survived by his children, Harriet Chiang and Robert Chiang, as well as two grandsons. His wife, Fu Chen Chiang, who went by “Jane,” died six months before Chiang’s death.

“He and my mother were totally devoted to each other, and when she died, it was like he couldn’t be happy without her,” Harriet Chiang said.

He died so peacefully and painlessly, “it was like my mom was taking care of him, like she had for almost 70 years,” she said.

A memorial service will be held May 17 in Berkeley, and the family requests any donations be given to the Chin Long Chiang Graduate Student Support Fund. Chiang — who received an $800 fellowship that allowed him to continue his studies at UC Berkeley when he was a student — established the fund to support similar students in need.

Contact Angel Grace Jennings at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @angeljenningss.