top of page

Dr. Chien Shiung Wu- The queen of nuclear research

Chien-Shiung Wu in 1958 at Columbia University

Dr. Chien-Shiung Wu, (May 31, 1912- February 16, 1997), A pionier and key figure in the evolution of physics.

Immigrant from China to the United States, she did valuable work on the Manhattan Project and experimental physics.

However, her important contribution to particle physics was overlooked by

the Nobel Prize Committee during the 1957 Nobel Prize in Physics. Without her there would have been no advances in the nuclear field to this day

Chien-Shiung was born on 31 May 1912 and raised in a remote fishing town just north of Shanghai, China. Although comparatively unusual for girls to attend school, Chien-Shiung went to Mingde Women's Vocational Continuing School, founded by her father, who advocated that girls must be taught. In 1934, she graduated from the National Central University of Nanking, China, at the head of her Physics class.After graduation, she worked at

the Physics Lab in China. Her professor, Dr. Jing-Wei Gu, another woman in the field physics, encouraged Chien-Shiung to study in the United States.

She enrolled at the University of California Berkeley in 1936, and in 1940, Dr. Chien-Shiung Wu graduated with her PhD in physics.In 1942, she wed Luke Chia-Liu Yuan, whom she had met during her studies at Berkeley.They relocated to the east coast where Dr. Wu taught physics at Smith College, Northampton, Massachusetts, and Princeton University, New Jersey. She was the first woman to be employed as a faculty at the Physics Department at Princeton. In 1944, Dr. Wu worked at Columbia University in New York City and entered the Manhattan Project.

Researchers at the Manhattan Project have been working on the construction of an atomic bomb. Chein-Shiung's reasearch involved the improvement of Geiger's radiation counters and enrichment uranium in large quantities, she developed a process for separating uranium metal into isotopes U-235 and U-238.

"Beta decay was... like a dear old friend. There would always be a special place in my heart reserved especially for it." ~ Chien-Shiung Wu

In 1954, she planned to make her Chinese American status legal by becoming a resident of the United States.

Her thesis on the law of conservation of parity was one of the most prominent examples.

Two physicists at Princeton, Tsung-Dao Lee and Chen-Ning Yang, stated that they had made a great discovery of this law. Yet much of the science world declined to accept that they were right. Chien-Shiung carried out an experiment that showed that their hypotheses were correct, Also known as the 'Wu experiment. In response, the science community has widely praised Tsung-Dao and Chen-Ning. In 1957, they were awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics.

Wu's experiment indicated that nature is slightly left-handed for weak nuclear interactions.

The observation of astonished scientists around the world, who soon replicated their analysis and verified their findings.

“ the tiny atoms and nuclei, or the mathematical symbols, or the DNA molecules have any preference for either masculine or feminine treatment.”- Dr. Chien Shiung Wu, 1964

Dr. Chien-Shiung Wu retired from Columbia in 1981 and expired of a stroke in New York City on 16 February 1997. Her remains were placed in the courtyard of the Mingde School in China, which she had attended as a child. It is important that we pay attention to stories like her life, so that we don't let anyone else loose the chance to do something because of their gender or race.

2 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All
bottom of page