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Chien-Shiung Wu: About

Chien-Shiung Wu


Who is Chien-Shiung Wu?

Chien-Shiung Wu is a pioneer and pivotal figure in the history of physics. An immigrant to the United States from China, she did important work for the Manhattan Project and in experimental physics. Her crucial contribution to particle physics was, however, ignored by the Nobel Prize committee when it awarded the 1957 Nobel Prize in Physics.

Chien-Shiung was born on May 31, 1912 and raised in a small fishing town just north of Shanghai, China. She had two brothers and was the middle child. Although relatively uncommon for girls to attend school, Chien-Shiung went to Mingde Women’s Vocational Continuing School. It was founded by her father, who believed that girls should receive an education.

In 1934, Chien-Shiung graduated at the top of her class with a degree in physics from the National Central University in Nanking, China (now known as Nanjing University). After graduation, she worked in a physics lab in China. Her mentor, Dr. Jing-Wei Gu, another woman working in the field of physics, encouraged Chien-Shiung to continue her education in the United States. With financial support from her uncle, Chien-Shiung took a ship to San Francisco. She was likely processed for immigration to the United States at the Angel Island Immigration Station located in San Francisco Bay. She enrolled at the University of California Berkeley in 1936. Her academic advisor was Ernest Lawrence. In 1939, while Chien-Shiung was still his student, he received the Nobel Prize in Physics for inventing the cyclotron particle accelerator. In 1940, Dr. Chien-Shiung Wu graduated with her PhD in physics.

In 1942, she married Luke Chia-Liu Yuan, who she had met during her studies at Berkeley. Neither of their families were able to attend the wedding because of World War II fighting in the Pacific. They moved to the east coast where Dr. Wu taught physics at Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts and at Princeton University in New Jersey. She was the first woman hired as faculty in the Physics Department at Princeton. Shortly afterwards, in 1944, Dr. Wu took a job at Columbia University in New York City, and joined the Manhattan Project. Continue reading from National Park Service

From our Collection

Link to Queen of Physics by Teresa Robeson in the catalog
Link to Headstrong: 52 Women Who Changed Science and the World by Rachel Swaby in the catalog
Link to Women in Science by Rachael Ignotofsky in the catalog
Link to Ten Women Who Changed Science and the World by Catherine Whitlock in the catalog
Link to Chemistry on Fire by Kate Biberdorf in the catalog
Link to The Chemistry Book by DK Publishers in the catalog

Link to Revolutionary Biographies Resource Guide Series