Xu Guanren, who was born in 1914 in Jiangsu, received a bachelor’s degree in agronomy from China’s National Central University in 1934. After graduation, Xu became a professor at National Central University until 1946 when he came to the U.S. and enrolled at the University of Minnesota. He received a doctorate in plant genetics in 1950, and then he stayed on at the University of Minnesota as a research fellow until 1956. According to University of Minnesota Archives, Xu found a way to induce a mutation for resistance to a virulent race of wheat stem rust, which was such a significant achievement that the Chinese government invited him back to China to set up an atomic energy laboratory, the first one to investigate peaceful uses of atomic energy.
After Xu returned to China, he served as dean at the Atomic Energy Utilization Research Institute at the China Agricultural Scientific Institute, deputy director of Institute of Biophysics in Chinese Academy of Sciences, and executive director of Chinese Society of Nuclear Agriculture Sciences. Xu’s research made important contributions in improving crop varieties in China.
Xu earned many honors and awards and was elected as an academician at the Chinese Academy of Sciences in 1980. In 1986 he received the Outstanding Achievement Award from the University of Minnesota. Xu is considered the founder of nuclear agriculture sciences in China.