Liu Xianlin, a well-known scientist on surveying and mapping, focuses on his work on a high-speed train, June 12, 2017.
People have been paying tribute to Liu Xianlin, a 78-year-old geomatics scientist and an academician of the Chinese Academy of Engineering, after a photo of him appeared showing him preoccupied with work on a high-speed train. West China Metropolis Daily commented on Thursday:
The esteemed academician's simple clothes and dedication to work, as shown in the photo, are just part of the story.
Liu, who was on a business trip, reportedly gave up his first-class seat to sit with his colleagues so they could talk about work more easily. He also refused other privileges to which he is entitled as an academician, such as a chauffeur service.
Liu declined to take questions over his photo to try and avoid the media spotlight, which is understandable given his dedication to his work.
But the sweeping online praise for him, to some extent, point to the rarity of people who prefer to devote themselves to their work rather than enjoy the media attention.
During his decades-long career as a surveying and mapping scientist, Liu has received the National Prize for Progress in Science and Technology Award, one of the country's top prizes for scientific contributions, three times. Keeping his distance from the limelight is not just one of his habits but has also helped him focus more on his research.
This is not to say showbiz celebrities who dominate the headlines are doing a lesser job. They are supposed to entertain the public and "make waves" in show business, as long as their attempts do not cross the line in morality and laws.
Scientists and researchers, on the other hand, have good reason to shy away from public attention.
Of course, they are allowed to cash in on their knowledge to become "star scholars" popularizing the sciences. But those, like Liu, who prefer to stay away from the public eye have the right to do so.