Fan, Hai-fu was born on 15 August 1933 in Canton, China. He graduated at
the Department of Chemistry, Peking University in 1956 and is now a Professor and senior
research scientist in the Institute of Physics, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing, China.
During the 1960's Fan started working on crystal-structure analysis of natural amino acids in Chinese traditional medicine and began using direct methods in solving crystal structures. He proposed the combination of direct methods with the heavy-atom method, the isomorphous replacement method and the anomalous scattering method in dealing with various kinds of phase ambiguity. From the middle 1970's to early 1980's Fan and colleagues has completed the work "direct methods dealing with pseudo symmetries in crystal-structure analysis". From the middle 1980's to late 1990's Fan conducted the research on combining direct methods with protein crystallographic methods leading to best test results among similar works on the world. He established multi-dimensional direct methods, which is the most efficient technique for ab initio determination of incommensurate modulated structures and composite structures without relying on any assumed models of modulation. In collaboration with Li, Fang-hua, Fan proposed a new image processing method in high-resolution electron microscopy. Since 2000 Fan has been focused on methods for high throughput determination of protein structures. He proposed the direct-methods aided dual-space fragment extension method, which dramatically enhances the power of SAD (Single-wavelength Anomalous Diffraction) phasing and automatic structure-model building. The procedure has been incorporated in the computer program OASIS.
Fan, Hai-fu was elected a member of the Chinese Academy of Sciences in 1991 and a member of the Third World Academy of Sciences in 2000. He was awarded the second class prize of natural sciences of China together with his colleagues in 1987, the TWAS (Third world Academy of Science) award in physics in 1996 and the Tan Kah Kee Science Award in mathematics and physics in 2006. In collaboration with M. M. Woolfson (Fellow of the Royal Society, UK) Fan co-authored the book Physical and Non-Physical Methods of Solving Crystal Structures (Cambridge University Press, 1995).