One of the intriguing highlights in Fu Ping's story was her proclaimed role in the development of Mosaic browser, which eventually became part of the foundation of the modern Internet in the forms of Netscape, Internet Explorer, Firefox, etc. In Bend, Not Break, she recalls on Pages 103-104:
In 1992, I received a grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) and was able to hire a few students to work with me at NCSA. One of them was Marc Andreessen, a witty, upbeat, and extremely bright undergraduate who had done some user interface programming in Austin, Texas, as a summer intern at IBM. We talked about building a browser, which is a graphic user interface to manage our public domain Web site at NCSA.The Later Story:
In her speech at UNC in 2010, Fu Ping elaborated a little further on her position in that project:
We had a 40 million dollars annual budget and I was managing 10 million dollars in industrial relationship and 30 million federal government. So, we could actually do anything we wanted. I just happened to hire this student his name is Marc Andreessen.The Debunking:
On Page 178 of Bend, Not Break, Fu Ping was reflecting on her reluctance of taking leadership in the earlier years of Geomagic years after NCSA:
At some point during the early daylight hours, I had an epiphany: I had given the leadership of Geomagic away because I had been scared of taking responsibility for the $6.5 million we had raised. On the surface, I had been proud of myself for putting my ego aside to step down as CEO, but what really had been guiding me was fear.You wouldn't expect someone who had previously managed tens of million dollars sweat so much for $6.5 million.
The invention of the Mosaic browser is something of technological legend and has been well documented in a variety of forms. Fu Ping's contribution or even her name has never been mentioned in all but very few historical records -- with those few only traced back to her own words.
When she joined NCSA, Fu Ping had barely graduated with an MS degree from UIUC. It would be hard to imagine that she was in a leadership position managing millions of federal funding. Indeed, Cindy Hao, who investigated this matter, provides the following information:
According to NCSA's public affairs coordinator, Ping Fu joined the center in April 1991. Her job classification was "visiting research programmer" until she took a leave for Hong Kong in 1994.A "research programmer" who provides a mentoring role to undergraduate students on the project sounds a lot more reasonable given her credential and experiences at that point.
UPDATE (7/20/2013): Fu Ping's Visiting Res Programer position at NCSA has now been officially confirmed by University of Illinois.