Life of celebrated Chinese-American nuclear physicist commemorated


China”s scientific community is committed to openness, trust and cooperation with peers from the United States and the international science community to contribute to scientific progress and the welfare of the people.

On Saturday, scientists from China and the US celebrated the 110th anniversary of the birth of renowned Chinese-American female nuclear physicist Wu Chien-shiung at an international academic forum.

Born in the town of Liuhe, Taicang in Jiangsu province, on May 31, 1912, Wu is recognized as one of the most influential nuclear physicists of the 20th century, and fundamentally changed how we view the universe.

For decades, scientists thought the universe was perfectly symmetric at the quantum mechanics level. However, in 1956, theoretical physicists Lee Tsungdao and Yang Chen-Ning came up with a theory that put this conservation of parity into question.

The two young scientists approached Wu, who was working at Columbia University at the time, to help them test their theory. Her now famous experiment of measuring the decay of radioactive cobalt-60 proved that parity was not conserved.

The finding sent shock waves through the international scientific community. The next year, Lee and Yang won the Nobel Prize for physics.

In a letter to the event, Wan Gang, president of the China Association for Science and Technology, said that Wu’s achievements in experimental physics had contributed substantially to progress in the discipline.

“She is a role model for generations of young Chinese and American scientists, especially women, inspiring them to strive for excellence in their pursuit of science,” he said.

Wan said Wu was committed to promoting exchanges and cooperation between China and the United States in the fields of scientific research and education, leading to many successful collaborations.

For example, China-US cooperation in the field of high-energy physics marked the beginning of collaboration between the science communities of the two countries. Another example was the China-US Physics Examination and Application, a program that helped China train nearly 1,000 physicists.

“To commemorate Dr Wu, we should carry forward the spirit she represents, the spirit of unremittingly exploring the endless frontiers of science,” he said.

“We need to work together to address common global challenges, so as to make our contributions to the sustainable development of human society and the protection of the earth, our beautiful home.” Wan said.

Wang Zhigang, minister of science and technology, said in a video that China-US exchanges in science and technology date back years before the two countries established diplomatic relations, one notable event being in 1971 when Yang Chen-Ning brought a US delegation to meet with Chinese leaders and scientists.

Before the two countries established formal ties, scientists from China and the US served as unofficial diplomats, whose exchanges and interactions helped build mutual trust and understanding, Wang said.

“The scientific communities of the two countries have always shared the aspiration to make exchanges and contribute jointly to scientific and technological progress,” he said. “China’s door to international science and technology cooperation will only open wider to the world.”

Kim Young-Kee, vice-president of the American Physical Society, said that Wu was a champion of gender equality, the peaceful use of science, and of addressing the challenges of our time through science.

“Madam Wu’s story gives us all hope for the future,” she said.

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