CHIEN-SHIUNG WU Biography - Famous Scientists


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Dr. Chien-Shiung Wu was in her early 30s when her work in nuclear fission             
attracted the attention of the United States government during World War II. She       
was recruited to work on the Manhattan Project at Columbia University in New           
York City. At the end of the war, she remained at Columbia as a research               
scientist. She has been recognized as the ?First Lady of Physics? and has             
received many honors, awards, and honorary degrees for her accomplishments.           
Dr. Chien-Shiung Wu was born on May 31, 1912 in Liu Ho, China. Wu's parents           
enrolled her in a school that they had started, which only went through the           
fourth grade. In 1922, Wu went to boarding school in Suzhou and graduated at the       
top of her class in 1930. She graduated from the prestigious National Central         
University of Nanking in 1936, and after graduation she traveled to the United         
States to pursue graduate studies. She enrolled at the University of California,       
Berkeley where she studied physics and received her Ph.D. in 1940. Two years           
later, she married Luke Yuan, a Chinese physicist and former classmate from U.C.       
Berkeley. The coupled moved to the east coast, where Yuan taught at Princeton         
University in New Jersey and Wu split her teaching duties between Princeton           
University and Smith College in Massachusetts.                                         
During World War II, Wu was asked to join the Manhattan Project at Columbia           
University, which was the Army?s secret project to develop the atomic bomb. She       
helped develop a process to enrich uranium ore that produced large quantities of       
uranium as fuel for the bomb.                                                         
After the war, she stayed at Columbia as a research assistant. In 1957, she and       
her colleagues Dr. Tsung-Dao Lee and Dr. Chen Ning Yang overthrew a law of             
symmetry in physics called the principle of conservation of parity. Wu observed       
that there is a preferred direction of emission, which disproved what was then a       
widely accepted "law" of nature. Her discovery about the law of parity was not         
recorded, and both Lee and Yang won the 1957 Nobel Prize in Physics, but Dr. Wu       
was not included in the award.                                                         
Even though she did not receive the Nobel Prize, Wu received many other honors         
and awards. She was named full professor at Columbia in 1958 and authored the         
book Beta Decay in 1965. She was appointed as the first Pupin Professor of             
Physics in 1973. Wu was the first woman elected to the American Physical Society       
as well as the first woman to receive the Cyrus B. Comstock Award of the U.S.         
National Academy of Sciences. She was also a recipient of the Medal of Science,       
the nation?s highest scientific award, and became the first woman ever to be           
awarded an honorary doctorate from Princeton University.                               
Wu continued to teach at Columbia University and conduct nuclear research until       
her retirement in 1981. After her retirement, she lectured widely and encouraged       
the participation of young women in scientific careers and became known as the "First 
Lady of Physics". She died on February 16, 1997 in New York.