The quiet, mysterious life of Vietnam's first female doctorate 'Western Studies'

Dr. Hoang Thi Nga is not only the first female doctorate in "Western Studies" but also the first doctorate in basic sciences in Vietnam. She used to be the principal of the College of Science.

But her life almost no one knows .

Picture 1 of The quiet, mysterious life of Vietnam's first female doctorate 'Western Studies'
Photo of Dr. Hoang Thi Nga at the altar from Hoang Street in Dong Ngac, Bac Tu Liem, Hanoi - (Photo taken).

Glorious for the South Vietnamese woman .

On July 1, 1935, Science Magazine No. 97 published an article titled "It is glorious for the women of the South: Ms. Hoang Thi Nga had just earned her doctorate in physical science".

The article writes: Dr. Hoang Thi Nga is from Dong Ngac village, Ha Dong province. Her father was a patrol official Hoang Huan Trung. Her brothers have many intellectuals, such as Mr. Hoang Co Nghi - bachelor of physics, professor of Protection High School. She was born in 1903, attended a pedagogy school (in Hang Bai street).

After passing the first baccalaureate degree with us, she went to France to study the second baccalaureate and then studied at the Faculté des Sciences in Paris. After obtaining a bachelor's degree in science, she studied for a doctorate and defended her doctoral thesis on March 19, 1935 (before that, we also had a "Western study" doctor , Mr. Nguyen Manh Tuong, but in law and literature), at a time when only the number of people with a university degree in our country could ever be counted on our fingers.

The article said: "The Council, after listening to your essay, praised her in unison and accepted for you to obtain a doctorate in rank." The thesis of her doctoral thesis is Photovoltaic properties of organic substances (Photovoltaic properties of organic substances).

According to Prof. Dam Thanh Son, this is a very modern topic. Therefore an article from her from 1939 to 1996 is still cited.

However, more than 80 years have passed, very little known by her name. Until December 2018, the family of late Professor Dao Van Tien (a biologist) published a number of his memoirs, including one about Hoang Thi Nga as the school's first rector. University of Science of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam (maybe here Prof. Dao Van Tien mistook college for university, because at that time we only had College of Science). Accordingly, the time Dr. Hoang Thi Nga took office was the end of 1945.

The paragraph describes quite in detail the appearance of Dr. Nga and the content of communication between the late Professor Dao Van Tien and her on several contacts, when Professor Dao Van Tien worked at the College of Science. The memoirs have a paragraph: "About two months after starting the school, I did not see her going to school anymore. Before that, she came on time every day because her house was on Ly Thuong Kiet Street. It was me who didn't understand why! Soon after I heard that she had left Vietnam for France. "

First woman to be a university president

While the information on Ms. Hoang Thi Nga's qualification has been confirmed through many documents, the information that she is the principal of the College of Science does not have any evidence. In the documents about the history of Hanoi National University, Hanoi Pedagogical University (which when established, "inherited" the legacy of higher education left by France), never Hoang Thi Nga's name is mentioned.

Talking to me, Associate Professor Nguyen Kim Son - Director of Hanoi National University - said that he checked documents but did not find any information about Dr. Hoang Thi Nga. Some historians with in-depth study of Vietnamese culture and education before and after the August Revolution also said that they had not encountered any documents mentioning the name Dr. Hoang Thi Nga.

However, in the Hanoi Medical University - Five months and the event was published on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the founding of the medical school, there are some details mentioning Dr. Hoang Thi Nga. In chapter 2 (the period of resistance war against France), when talking about the operation of the Medical University after the August Revolution, the authors of the book noted: "Thus, after less than 3 months, The revolutionary government has stabilized the organization of universities including University of Medicine, College of Science, College of Law, College of Fine Arts, College of Arts and a number of other technical schools (notably the position of Principal The University of Science was entrusted to Ms. Hoang Thi Nga, the first Vietnamese woman who obtained a doctorate in mathematics) " (here there is a confusion about her doctoral degree in Hoang Thi Nga).

Regarding the salary policy for lecturers at the University of Medicine and Pharmacy, the authors of the book noted: "Reference: Ms. Hoang Thi Nga was appointed by the French government as a professor of College of Science from May 15 -1945; and on August 15, 1945, was promoted to principal. It seems that she had not been paid in those days.

On November 7, 1945, the revolutionary government issued a decree (summarizing the contents): 1) still paying Ms. Nga's salary since her professorship as 642.26 dong / month; 2) from the position of principal, he is entitled to VND 1,033.54 / month (period before the revolution). Of course, now under the new regime, she continues to enjoy that salary (converted from pre-French period) . ".

Picture 2 of The quiet, mysterious life of Vietnam's first female doctorate 'Western Studies'
The thesis cover, presented at the Faculty of Science of the University of Paris to receive a doctorate in physics, presented by Ms. Hoang Thi Nga - (Photo: File).

"Losing track" in Vietnamese university history

According to the writer, after the August Revolution, our government has established a number of new universities, besides maintaining the operation of the old universities and colleges (both members of Indochina University) from French colonial period. In particular, College of Science is one of the "old" schools of Indochina University.

All these universities and colleges, both old and new, are in the same subject with the common name of the University of which Nguyen Van Huyen is the director of the University. The name Vietnam University appeared for the first time in Decree 43 on October 10, 1945, about establishing an autonomous fund for Vietnamese universities. All universities and colleges in Vietnam University (including College of Science) opened on November 15, 1945.

But on February 18, 1946, National Minister of Education Vu Dinh Hoe issued a decree allowing universities to suspend for a short time (except English and Russian classes) on the grounds that " the current situation "," wants to let students participate in practical tasks now ".

After that, the anti-French resistance war broke out, so the suspension of this lecture lasted indefinitely (except for the University of Medicine and Pharmacy, after which the school organized normal activities in Chiem Hoa and Tuyen Quang battlefields).

In an article from 2009, the late journalist Ham Chau (a writer specializing in scientific topics) mentioned Hoang Thi Nga as the "director of the University of Science" , that she had applied to France. "settling down for private business" after the said temporary suspension.

During his lifetime, Professor Ngo Thuc Lanh (one of the first nuclei of mathematics department of Hanoi National University of Education) shared with the writer that after the liberation of the capital, the High School of Pedagogy moved to Hanoi to take over the University. College of Science, then merged with several other schools to establish the University of Science Education.

Only existed for 2 years with 3 training courses, but the University of Science Education became a "machine" to provide teaching staff for the universities that were set up later. In 1956, the two universities of Pedagogy of Science and University of Pedagogy were merged and separated into two complete schools: Hanoi General University and Hanoi Pedagogical University.

Thus, the history of College of Science has had a fairly long "fracture" , from 1946-1954. Is that the reason why Dr. Hoang Thi Nga's name is completely lost in the history of higher education in Vietnam?

Tailed sound

The grand family of Hoang Thi Nga has 18 brothers and sisters, many of whom are famous intellectuals and descendants currently living scattered in many countries.

In Dong Ngac village, there is now only one grandson, Mr. Hoang Kim Dong, who calls Mr. Hoang Huan Trung his grandfather, calling Mrs. Nga her aunt, guarding from the road. Mr. Hoang Kim Dong said: "All I know about her is that she was born and had a peaceful childhood at this house. Growing up, she was staying at 28 Hang Voi, a house on the streets of grandparents My grandfather, to go to school.

After she went to France to do something, we did not know. Those who knew her well died. A few more people in France and the US may still have some memories of her when she is 80-90 years old, but they are currently quite difficult to communicate. "

Also according to Mr. Dong, there is very little information in genealogy about Ms. Hoang Thi Nga, maybe because she is "a woman" , but according to the concept of the ancients "foreign". Just know she did not get married and died in France in 1970.

She was originally buried in Nice. On September 13, 2000, her remains were reburied to Antony Cemetery, Châteney Street 92160 Antony (Hauts-de-Seine), in the crypt of Hoang Co Thuy's family (her younger brother).

Picture 3 of The quiet, mysterious life of Vietnam's first female doctorate 'Western Studies'
Article written about Ms. Hoang Thi Nga in Science Magazine No. 97.

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