Photo of Chien-Shiung Wu

Chien-Shiung Wu

  • National Medal of Science
  • Physical Sciences

For her ingenious experiments that led to new and surprising understanding of the decay of the radioactive nucleus.

She’s been called “the Chinese Madame Curie”, “the First Lady of Physics Research” and the “Queen of Nuclear Research.” Despite these grand nicknames, Chien-Shiung Wu, a Chinese-born scientist, lived in relative obscurity for most of her life.

After studying physics in China, Wu came to America in 1936 to attend the University of California where she specialized in nuclear fission.

During World War II, Wu went to Columbia University, where she helped discover a way of separating uranium into the isotopes needed for the nuclear weapon.

While she is believed to have been the only Chinese person who worked on the Manhattan Project, it’s her legacy as a woman that’s inspirational to future generations.

“It is shameful that there are so few women in science,” she said. “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.”