Chinese Vice President, Tycoon
Former Chinese vice president Rong Yiren, 89, a one-time business tycoon who joined the Communist government and played a key role in launching economic reforms, earning the nickname "Red Capitalist," died Oct. 26 in Beijing. No cause of death was reported.
Mr. Rong was a wealthy textile magnate who stayed in China after the 1949 revolution and handed over his fortune to the Communist Party. He was persecuted in the 1960s but later installed as vice president following the launch of then-supreme leader Deng Xiaoping's economic reforms in 1979. Deng called Mr. Rong his "Red Capitalist."
Mr. Rong created the China International Trust and Investment Corp., or CITIC, which became the main vehicle for the communist leadership's capitalist-style investments. Mr. Rong was named vice president in 1993, becoming China's highest-ranking noncommunist official. He left the post in 1998.
In 2000, the U.S. business magazine Forbes ranked Mr. Rong as China's richest businessman, with a fortune estimated at $1.9 billion in CITIC shares. His son, Larry Yung, also known as Rong Zhijian, is chairman of CITIC's Hong Kong arm, CITIC Pacific Ltd., and has a fortune estimated at $1 billion.
Chalmers H. 'Slick' Goodlin
Chalmers H. "Slick" Goodlin, 82, a test pilot who took the X-1 aircraft to near-supersonic speeds but became a footnote in aviation history when he lost his cockpit seat -- and the right to shatter the sound barrier for the first time -- to a young Chuck Yeager, died of cancer Oct. 20 at his home in West Palm Beach, Fla.
After 26 test flights in the X-1, Mr. Goodlin was on the brink of making the first supersonic flight when he resigned over a contract dispute. Bell Aircraft Corp., the plane's manufacturer, refused to pay him a $150,000 bonus for the milestone flight.
The military subsequently took over the program, and Yeager achieved stardom on Oct. 14, 1947, at Muroc Army Air Field (now Edwards Air Force Base) by becoming the first human to fly faster than the speed of sound. He did it for his regular captain's salary: $3,396 a year.
For the rest of his life, Mr. Goodlin remained bitter about the lost opportunity, and he and Yeager feuded publicly. Mr. Goodlin accused the Air Force of using the disputed fee to take over the program from Bell, wanting the credit for breaking the sound barrier after he had done the "dirty work" of shaking down the plane.
Yeager said he took the risky assignment -- an earlier attempt at supersonic flight had killed a British pilot -- because it was his duty as a military man. Mr. Goodlin later was angered by his portrayal in the 1983 movie "The Right Stuff," based on the Tom Wolfe bestseller, and threatened to sue over it.
After his jet-fighter days were over, Mr. Goodlin owned a firm that bought, sold and leased aircraft.
Charles G. Gunnerson
Environmental Engineer, Consultant
Charles G. Gunnerson, 85, an environmental engineer, consultant, researcher and policy-maker who worked worldwide, died Oct. 7 at a nursing home in Laguna Woods, Calif., after a stroke.
In the 1950s, while working as a civil engineer with the City of Los Angeles, his early research helped set the standard for sanitary engineering in coastal waters around the world.
In 1966, he was made chief sanitary engineer for a World Health Organization master plan and feasibility study for water supply and sewerage in Istanbul. He later held positions in the U.S. Public Health Service, State Department, Commerce Department and World Bank -- working around the world on projects affecting drinking water and sanitation.
Dr. Spencer H. Bush
Spencer Harrison Bush, 85, a metallurgical engineer whose career in nuclear engineering began when he served with an Army engineering detachment at Los Alamos, N.M., during the development of the atomic bomb, died Oct. 2 of cardiac arrest at Tri-Cities Chaplaincy Hospice House in Kennewick, Wash.
As an expert on nuclear reactor safety, Dr. Bush served on a number of government committees, most notably a committee on reactor safeguards for the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission. He also published more than a hundred articles on the physical properties and reliability of various metals.
In 1998, the American Society of Mechanical Engineers awarded him the Melvin R. Green Codes and Standards Medal for more than 30 years of work on codes and standards. The society noted that Dr. Bush's work had resulted in improved reliability and safety of power generating systems.
For nearly 30 years he worked for Battelle, a global science and technology enterprise based in Columbus, Ohio. After retiring in 1983, he formed his own consulting agency.