[IMMIGRATION SUCCESS] David Ho - World Renown Scientist
- DAVID HO
If you lean in close, conspiratorially, Sonia Ho may just let slip a
secret she keeps about her son David. She will speak in a hush, as
if to elude some spy's eavesdropping from behind the potted palm.
But she badly wants to divulge her information. Thus, slightly
abashed but nonetheless proud, she will confide, "He's kind of a
genius, you know. I'm not supposed to say that, but it's true."
Mothers are allowed to say these things. But one doesn't have to be
David Da-i Ho's mother to be aware of his brilliance. He lays forth
clearly and succinctly some of the boldest yet most cogent
hypotheses in the epic campaign against HIV; at the same time, he
operates nimbly through the budgetary and political pitfalls of the
enterprise. And though he is monumentally tranquil in demeanor, he
has been known to fling the occasional hot one-liner against
naysayers--once, "It's the virus, stupid!" to those who insist HIV
is not the cause of AIDS.
Genius, however, is a word that originally referred to a guardian
spirit. Ho cuts too slight a figure to qualify as a force of nature,
but his spirit is startling: a fierce competitiveness that is
manifested as a subtle calm, a passionate transcendence. It is
evident in his gestures. His fine-fingered hands do not punch out
arguments; rather they escort logic through tangles of confusion,
gently prodding reason his way. Perhaps Sonia Ho is right to be
hushed, for her son's genius emanates from the depths of his
family's experiences, and it is not quite Asian to make a display of
one's legacies. But she is also right to be proud, for this is
America, and her son is an extraordinary American success story.
TIME's 1996 Man of the Year was born in Taichung, Taiwan, on Nov. 3,
1952. At birth, he was given the name Da-i, two Chinese ideograms
that literally mean "Great One," a Taoist term of vast cosmological
consequence. It is a name reflecting great expectations. Taichung,
however, was a quiet town in the Taiwan boondocks, and the Ho family
lived in a modest four-room house with a backyard ditch that served
as a toilet and from which farmers collected fertilizer for their
fields. To forge a better life for his family, Ho's father took ship
in 1956, traveling 18 days on a freighter to America. For nine
years, Da-i would know his father only through letters and parcel
For Da-i and his younger brother, the years of waiting were filled
with long school days that included, after a quick stop at home for
dinner, a 20-minute bike ride to a cram school for extra tutoring.
As they rode home in the dark through the empty countryside, the
eerie sounds of frogs and crickets would sometimes scare the
brothers into frenzied pedaling. Street stickball was a welcome
interruption. And whenever he could, Da-i would sneak off to the
neighborhood store to leaf through comic books.