Chen-Yuan Lee (December 4, 1915 – November 2, 2001), was a Taiwanese pharmacologist and political activist. He is famous for his research on snake venom. He was a recipient of the prestigious Redi Award from the International Society on Toxicology (IST), and was also a former president of the society. He was a former dean of the National Taiwan University College of Medicine. After his retirement from researching, he focused on participating in the Taiwan independence movement and many democratic movement. Lee had founded many political organizations such as the "100 Action Union" (100行動聯盟), "Foundation of Medical Professionals Alliance in Taiwan" (臺灣醫界聯盟基金會). He was also the first chairperson of the Taiwan Independence Party.
Lee grew up in Tainan, where he had outstanding grades. After graduating from the Tainan Prefecture Second High School (now the National Tainan First Senior High School), he attended the Taihoku School of Higher Education (臺北高等學校). He entered the medical department of Taihoku Imperial University (臺北帝國大學) in 1936, and became one of the first graduates from the department.
Lee enjoyed basic medical studies after entering the medical department. He finished his first research paper in his freshman year, which was published in the Taiwanese Medical Magazine (台灣醫學雜誌). After graduating in 1940, Lee decided to quit clinical medicine and keep on studying. He became the assistant of Tsungming Tu, who was researching on basic medical studies and, at the time, the only Taiwanese professors in the medical department. He once said, To gain honor for Taiwan, dignity for the Taiwanese, I chose to follow Professor Tu instead of several other Japanese professors. Because I thought Professor Tu was our people, and we should help him.
In 1952, Lee was financially supported by the Economic Cooperation Administration (美援會) and was sent to the University of Pennsylvania Medical School for further education. This was his first time studying abroad. Lee originally wanted to do research on the circulatory system, but because of the limitation of time, his instructor Carl F. Schmidt suggested that he change his topic to pulmonary circulation. After researching at the University of Pennsylvania, he transferred to the Wayne State University in Detroit, where he visited Walter Segeers's lab for two months and published a small-sized research paper.
After Lee's return to Taiwan, he started his job as a leader at the pharmacology lab of National Taiwan University due to the dimission of Tsungming Tu. In 1963, Lee worked with Chang Chuan-chung (張傳炯), who has a chemist background, and separated the deadly α-type and β-type bungarotoxins of the venom of Bungarus multicinctus. This was a big step in neuroscience, medical science, and pharmacology.
Over the years, Lee had published over a hundred research papers. He not only became a leader of pharmacology in Taiwan, but also an international authority in the field of venom snake research. In 1970, he was elected a member of Academia Sinica, the national academy of Taiwan. He became the dean of the National Taiwan University College of Medicine in 1972. Four years later, he was awarded the "Redi Prize" by the International Society on Toxicology. In 1979, he received an invitation from Springer Science+Business Media to serve as the chief editor for the books Chemistry of Protein Toxins in Snake Venoms and The Action of Snake Venoms on Nerve and Muscle, which established his high position in researching snake venom. In 1985, he chosen to serve as the president of the International Society on Toxicology, and became one of the few Taiwanese scholars to lead an international research organization.
Nobel Prize laureate Yuan T Lee wrote in the foreword of the book The Story of Snake Venom Research in Taiwan (台灣蛇毒傳奇) that he once had ask another Nobel Prize laureate Joseph L. Goldstein, "In the Taiwanese life science field, whose research is recognized internationally?" Without the least hesitation, Goldstein answered, "Chen-Yuan Lee is internationally recognized.
In 1991, along with several colleagues, Chen-Yuan Lee visited Ying-Yuan Lee and Kuo Pei-hung (郭倍宏), two Taiwan independence supporters and alumni of the National Taiwan University who were arrested for "planning to revolt" (預備叛亂罪) and were detained in the Tucheng Detention Center (土城看守所). Later, he felt that the "Regulation for Rebellions" (懲治叛亂條例) and "Criminal Law Article 100" (刑法第100條) were impeded the democratic development of Taiwan because they were simply tools to help Kuomingtang dominate Taiwan. As a result, he organized the "100 Action Union," which stands for the abolishment of "Criminal Law Article 100." He, as a member of Academia Sinica, joined a sit-down demonstration, leading the "100 Action Union" and successfully expressed the Taiwanese people's desire for human rights.