WOMAN of ACTION™ – Dr. Chien-Shiung Wu

 

A Celebration of Women™

is elated to Celebrate the Life of this powerful  female presence that graced our earth, living her life ahead of her times.

 
 

WOMAN of ACTION™  

 

DOCTOR OF PHYSICS


 

Chien-Shiung Wu 

 I was a senior research scientist that changed the accepted view of the structure of the universe. 
 I disproved one of the then widely accepted “laws” of physics,

‘the conversation of parity’,

by proving that identical nuclear particles do not always act alike.

 
 

Chien-Shiung Wu was born in 1912 in Shanghai, China. In 1934, she received her Bachelor of Science degree in China, and two years later, she traveled to the United States. After receiving her Ph. D. from the University of California at Berkeley, she taught at Smith College before settling down at Princeton University in 1944. During World War II, Chien worked on the Manhattan Project and she also held several honorary positions at several Chinese Universities. She also became a professor of physics at Columbia University.

In 1957, she became a full professor at Columbia University, and she accomplished even more the year after. She became the first woman awarded the Research Corporation Award, received an honorary doctor of science degree from Princeton University, and was elected to the National Academy of Sciences.

In 1956 and early 1957, physicist C. S. Wu and her colleagues conducted an ingenious experiment showing that—at least in the case of radioactive decay—nature knows left from right. Wu’s work verified a hypothesis put forth in 1956 by her Columbia colleague Tsung-Dao Lee and Chen-Ning Yang that, unlike all other known physical forces, the “weak” interactions among decaying particles are not always symmetrical in nature. Before Wu’s measurements, the laws of physics had always shown complete symmetry between left and right—the world reflected in a mirror appeared no less possible than the world in front of it. As a result of her measurements, on the afternoon of January 15, 1957 the Department of Physics at Columbia University called a press conference to announce the dramatic overthrow of this basic law of physics, known as conservation of parity.

The next day, The New York Times carried a front-page headline,

Basic Concept in Physics Reported Upset in Tests,” and the news quickly spread.

For six months, Dr. Wu tested the theory presented by Drs. Tsung-Dao Lee and Chen Ning Yang, that parity – a theory that the laws of nature are not biased in any particular direction – was not conserved in certain types of nuclear reactions. Dr. Wu’s groundbreaking experiments proved Drs. Lee and Yang’s theory right; the longstanding belief that parity was conserved in weak subatomic interactions was shattered, altering the way in which scientists viewed the structure of the universe. In late 1957, Drs. Lee and Yang were awarded the Nobel Prize in physics for their theoretical contributions to the project, while Dr. Wu’s experimental proof of the theory was overlooked.

In 1964, Chien became the ‘first Woman’ to receive the Comstock prize from the National Academy of Sciences. Then, in 1972, at Columbia University, Chien became the Pupin Professor of Physics. In 1973,Chien was elected president of the American Physical Society, and became the ‘first Woman’ to do so. Over her lifetime, Wu contributions to research brought her many awards, including the National Medal of Science in 1975, the first Wolf Prize in Physics in 1978, and Columbia’s Pupin Medal in 1991. She was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 1958, the Royal Society of Edinburgh in 1969 and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1972.

Chien died in 1997, having contributed much in atomic research, Beta Decay, and weak interactions.

  • Her later research included the study of molecular changes in hemoglobin associated with sickle-cell anemia.
  • Her book Beta Decay, published in 1965, remains the standard reference for nuclear physicists.
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    …our Favorite Quotes from Dr. Chien-Shiung Wu

     

    “…it is shameful that there are so few women in science… In China there are many, many women in physics. There is a misconception in America that Women scientists are all dowdy spinsters. This is the fault of men. In Chinese society, a woman is valued for what she is, and men encourage her to accomplishments yet she remains eternally feminine.”

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    “There is only one thing worse than coming home from the lab to a sink full of dirty dishes, and that is not going to the lab at all!”

    — Chien-Shiung Wu

    Chien-Shiung Wu (simplified Chinese: 吴健雄; traditional Chinese: 吳健雄; pinyin: Wú Jiànxíong, May 31, 1912 – February 16, 1997) was a Chinese-American physicist with expertise in the techniques of experimental physics and radioactivity. Wu worked on the Manhattan Project (she helped to develop the process for separating uranium metal into the U-235 and U-238 isotopes by gaseous diffusion). She later performed experiments that contradicted the “Law of Conservation of Parity” and which confirmed the theories of colleagues. Her honorary nicknames include the “First Lady of Physics”, the “Chinese Marie Curie”, and “Madame Wu”. 

     
     

    A Celebration of Women™

    welcomes this woman, with our tribute here into our Alumni of WOMEN of ACTION with open arms and hearts filled with gratitude for her birth.
     

     

    Brava Chien-Shiung!

     
     

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