Chien-Shiung Wu was a Chinese-American experimental physicist who made significant contributions to particle and nuclear physics.
Born in China in 1912, she had great curiosity as a child, with a passion for science developing from time spent with her parents and later while attending boarding school.
After studying mathematics and physics at university in China, Wu decided to continue her studies abroad in the United States. She was accepted to the University of Michigan before ultimately favouring the more liberal attitude of Berkeley in California, where she felt she would have more opportunity.
Wu’s talents greatly impressed others at Berkeley, she undertook a variety of studies on nuclear physics before completing her PhD in 1940.
In 1944 Wu joined the Manhattan Project, helping develop the process of uranium separation by gaseous diffusion. Like many other scientists involved in the project, she was unaware of the devastating effect nuclear weapons would later have.
In 1945 Wu accepted a role at Columbia University where she completed more experimental research, becoming an associate professor in 1952.
She conducted a famous experiment in 1956 which is known as the Wu experiment. While complicated to explain, it was an important development in the fields of particle and nuclear physics.
Wu’s influential career earned her nicknames such as The Queen of Nuclear Research and The First Lady of Physics.
In 1975 she was the first woman to be awarded the United States National Medal of Science in physics.
Not only one of the worlds greatest experimental physicists, Wu would become more outspoken on various human rights issues such as gender and ethnic discrimination.
Wu died from a stroke in 1997, she was 84.