Archival Collections
Columbia University Archives

C.S. (Chien-Shiung) Wu Papers, 1945-1994 (bulk 1960-1979) 

Phys. Desc: 
9.5 cubic feet (9 record cartons, 1 manuscript box)
Columbia University Archives
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Biographical Note

Chien-Shiung Wu was born in 1912 in a small town near Shanghai, China to Wu Zhongyi, a 1911 revolution participant, and Fan Fu-Hua. Wu attended a private girls' school in China and eventually went to Soochow Girls School, where the curriculum was chiefly Western. She graduated in 1930 and went on to attend Nanjing University, where she studied physics and graduated in 1934. Wu immigrated to the United States in 1936 to seek post-doctoral programs in physics. She attended the University of California at Berkeley and received her Ph.D. in 1940. In 1942, she married Luke Yuan and they moved to the east coast. In 1947, they had a son, Vincent Yuan, who became a research scientist at Los Alamos National Laboratory. Wu took a position teaching at Smith College, but left soon after for Princeton. The Division of War Research at Columbia University recruited Wu in 1944 for work at a secret facility in New York for the development of sensitive radiation detectors for the atomic bomb project. Her research included, among other topics, groundbreaking work on beta decay, the irregularity of K-meson decay in particle accelerators, and K-meson's violation of parity. She became a full professor in 1948, and in 1972 Columbia University named Wu the Michael I. Pupin Professor of Physics. Throughout her career Wu was awarded numerous prizes and honors for her work. She was the first female president of the American Physical Society as well as the first woman to receive the Comstock Award, the Research Corporation Award, and an honorary doctorate in science from Princeton University. She also received the National Medal of Science, the Wolf Prize in Physics and was elected to the National Academy of Sciences. Wu died on February 16, 1997 in New York.

Scope and Contents

The collection consists of speeches, reports, publications, research notes, and correspondence. The bulk of the collection relates to Wu's involvement in the American Physical Society as well as her research activities. The correspondence is chiefly professional, relating to C. S. Wu's physics research, professional commitments, appointments, meetings, conferences, and publications. Correspondence also includes letters from individuals around the world praising Wu for her accomplishments, asking advice, arranging speaking engagements, discussing administrative matters, and trading research notes, as well as information on publications and other topics. In addition, the collection contains information on Wu's involvement in the development of an affirmative action program at Columbia University in the 1970's.