Jin Shanbao, who was born in 1895 in Zhuji, Zhejiang Province, graduated in 1927 from Huadong University with a degree in agronomy. He came to the U.S. in 1930 to further his study in plant physiology and genetics at Cornell University and the University of Minnesota. During a 1995 interview with the then 101-year-old alumnus, he said he decided to attend the University of Minnesota because of its excellent reputation.
Upon returning to China in 1932, Jin taught at several universities, became the vice mayor of the city of Nanjing, and served as president of the Academy of Agricultural Sciences, among other distinguished appointments. He was a leading agricultural scientist and made important contributions to the study of wheat. In 1955 he was elected to be an academician of the Chinese Academy of Sciences.