Zhang Dejun, born in 1922 in Jiangxi, graduated from Department of Mechanics at National Southwestern Associated University with a bachelor’s degree. He then stayed and taught at the university as an instructor. In 1945, Zhang came to the University of Minnesota and received a master’s degree in agricultural engineering in 1947.
After working as an intern in Minnesota and California for a year, Zhang returned to China. In 1949, he served as an engineer and director of Department of Design at North China Agricultural Mechanics Factory (now Beijing Internal Combustion Engine General Factory). In 1954, Zhang served as a chief technologist at Agricultural Mechanics Institute of the former First Machinery Industry Department. Zhang was in charge of the design and experiment of the first combine harvester in China. The product passed the evaluation in 1955, and received the first prize from National Mechanics Department.
In 1956, Zhang was transferred to Jilin University of Technology and engaged in the establishment of the first academic program of agricultural mechanical design in Chinese institutions of higher education. The program started to recruit master students in 1960, and in 1981, Zhang was appointed to become one of the first supervisors for doctoral students in agricultural mechanical design and manufacture.
Zhang is regarded as one of the founders in Chinese agricultural engineering, and he served as the deputy president of Chinese Agricultural Engineering Society, the president of Jilin Agricultural Engineering Society. In 1987, Zhang successfully organized the first International Agricultural System Engineering Academic Conference in China.