APS News

December 2022 (Volume 31, Number 11)

Global Event Honors Trailblazing Nuclear Physicist Chien-Shiung Wu

By David Barnstone | November 10, 2022

Chien-Shiung Wu photo
Credit: University Archives, Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Columbia University Libraries

Chien-Shiung Wu

Chien-Shiung Wu (1912-1997) is widely regarded as one of the most influential scientists of the 20th century, having disproved what was, until the late 1950s, considered a fundamental law of physics – the conservation of parity in weak interactions. Wu’s meticulous experiments verified the theory that earned her male colleagues the 1957 Nobel Prize in Physics.

On Sept. 24, APS and the Chinese Physical Society commemorated the 110th anniversary of her birth at an event organized by Nanjing University Alumni Association of the United States. Among the speakers at the C.S. Wu Global Online Symposium were 2021 APS President Sylvester James “Jim” Gates, Jr. (watch his remarks here, beginning at 33:40) and APS Vice President Young-Kee Kim (watch her remarks here, beginning at 4:13).

“[Madame Wu] made many contributions to our society which remain critical today,” says Kim. “Her election and achievements as [the first female] president of APS helped to ensure that all physicists, independent of race, nationality, and gender are welcome in our community.” Kim noted that during Wu’s presidential year in 1975, she met with U.S. President Gerald Ford and urged him to establish the Office of Science and Technology Policy.

While Wu is revered today, as her granddaughter Jada Yuan wrote in The Washington Post last year, “she had walked unnoticed between her laboratory at Columbia University and the nearby rent-stabilized faculty apartment she shared with my grandfather, who was a particle physicist, and my father, who would become a nuclear physicist.”

“Yet despite her small stature, she was a true giant in physics and was an intellectual powerhouse,” says Kim. “Her scientific pursuits challenged the status quo.”

David Barnstone is APS Head of Integrated Marketing Communications for Research and Publications.

APS encourages the redistribution of the materials included in this newspaper provided that attribution to the source is noted and the materials are not truncated or changed.

Editor: Taryn MacKinney

December 2022 (Volume 31, Number 11)

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Articles in this Issue
Sixty Years After, Physicists Model Electromagnetic Pulse of a Once-Secret Nuclear Test
Physicists Can Help Combat Global Threat of Nuclear Weapons, Say Experts at Nuclear Physics Meeting
Scientists Investigate Salty Stellar Recipes
New Models Expand Thermodynamics to Humidity-Driven Engines That Mimic Plants
Undergrads Win Apker Prize for Work on Slime Mold and Black Holes
This Month in Physics History
Physicist in Brazil Translates Physics Lessons into Portuguese and Spanish for High Schoolers
Global Event Honors Trailblazing Nuclear Physicist Chien-Shiung Wu
APS Science Trust Project Trains Members to Curb the Spread of Misinformation
The Back Page: Graduate Students Should Be Paid Living Wages
Letter to the Editor