Chien-Shiung Wu (1912-1997)

When looking through the biographies of the many great scientists, people would often find the usual names appearing, including Albert Einstein, Marie Curie, Stephen Hawking, and so on so forth. Yet, beyond this cliche surface lies a series of equally brilliant, profound scientists who often get overlooked for their works. Of those overlooked individuals was an Chinese-American experimental physicist by the name of Chien-Shiung Wu.

Chien-Shiung Wu (1958) at Columbia University
Chien-Shiung Wu (1958) at Columbia University

Chien-Shiung Wu was born in Jiangsu, China in 1912. Although she first studied in the National Central University in Nanjing, she later went on to study in the states due to the lack of postdoctoral studies in physics at her university.

Chien-Shiung Wu is often associated with her contributions to radioactivity. As a member of the Manhattan Project, she assisted with the process of separating uranium metals into isotopes by means of gaseous diffusion. This, in turn, could produce great amounts of fuel. In addition to that, she was able to disprove the law of the Conservation of Parity, which states that objects built as its mirrored equivalent will behave the same as the mirrored image of that object, with her revolutionary experiment, named the Wu experiment, respectively.

Despite her revolutionary works in physics, which was often coined “the most important development in the field of atomic and nuclear research to date,” she was overlooked for the Nobel Prize, which went to her fellow co-workers, Tsung-Dao Lee and Chen-Ning Yang.

Even with this slightly disappointing omission, she was still able to receive plenty awards, including (but not limited to) the Scientist of the Year Award- 1974, National Medal of Science (US)- 1975, and the Wolf Prize in Physics- 1978.

Overall, Chien-Shiung Wu was a brilliant mind who should be better recognized for her works. She remains a great role model for the aspiring scientists, especially to those planning to pursue physics.


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