Manhattan Project scientist Chien-Shiung Wu honored with Forever Stamp

February 11, 2021, 11:59AMNuclear News

To mark the International Day of Women and Girls in Science, the U.S. Postal Service today issued a commemorative Forever stamp recognizing influential nuclear physicist and professor Chien-Shiung Wu (1912–1997).

A great honor: The stamp was dedicated during a virtual ceremony that can be viewed on the Postal Service Facebook and Twitter pages. USPS official Kristin Seaver was joined for the ceremony by Vincent Yuan, a scientist at Los Alamos National Laboratory and son of the honoree; Jada Yuan, granddaughter of the honoree; and Brian Greene, professor of physics and mathematics at Columbia University. The stamp is available for purchase at Post Office locations nationwide and online.

“I am elated to have my mother honored by USPS on a postage stamp because I believe it goes beyond recognizing her scientific achievements; it also honors the determination and moral qualities that she embodied,” said Vincent Yuan. “It’s even more profound that the recognition comes from America, the country of her naturalization that she loved.”

Wu’s career: Both the virtual ceremony and a news release issued by the USPS highlight Wu’s life and career as an expert researcher who tested fundamental theories of physics.

Wu moved to the United States from China in 1936 and earned a Ph.D. in nuclear physics in 1940 from the University of California at Berkeley. In 1944, she joined the Division of War Research at Columbia University, where she worked on uranium enrichment and radiation detectors for the Manhattan Project. Wu remained at Columbia as a research professor and focused her research on beta decay.

In 1956, theoretical physicists Tsung-Dao Lee and Chen-Ning Yang went to Wu for help in developing a theory to disprove the quantum mechanics principle of conservation of parity. Wu created an experiment that revealed that parity is not conserved in weak interactions—a finding that changed the fundamental understanding of quantum mechanics and earned the lead physicists the Nobel Prize in Physics.

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