Story at a glance
- Chien-Shiung Wu will be featured on an upcoming United States Postal Service stamp.
- USPS described Wu as “one of the most influential nuclear physicists of the 20th century.”
- The stamp was designed by Art Director Ethel Kessler with original art by Kam Mak.
It’s been quite a year for the United States Postal Service. But just like many Americans, the federal agency is looking forward to 2021.
The postal service revealed several designs for upcoming stamps on Tuesday, including an ode to the Year of the Ox, a commemoration of Japanese American Soldiers of WWII and Chien-Shiung Wu.
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Wu’s granddaughter, a journalist, shared the news on social media, noting that in addition to being one of the most influential nuclear physicists of the 20th century, Wu "also loved overfeeding her granddaughter and taking her to the zoo.”
Some truly exciting news: my grandmother, Dr. Chien-Shiung Wu, is going to be on a Forever stamp from the U.S. Postal Service. She was a nuclear physicist who helped disprove a fundamental law of nature and changed a field dominated by men. We’re so grateful for the honor. pic.twitter.com/cIL23tki80— Jada Yuan (@jadabird) November 17, 2020
She is perhaps best known for a historic experiment overturning what was then considered a fundamental law of nature: the law of symmetry, according to the National Park Service (NPS), which also paid tribute to her participation in the Manhattan Project as part of the National Historic Park site. The experiment proved essential to research that later won the Nobel Prize, although Wu was not listed as a winner.
Her career marked a series of firsts: the first Pupin Professor of Physics at Columbia University in 1973, the first woman to be elected president of the American Physical Society, the Cyrus B. Comstock Award of the National Academy of Sciences, and the first woman to receive an honorary doctorate in science from Princeton, according to her obituary in the New York Times.
“During a career that spanned more than 40 years in a field dominated by men, she established herself as the authority on conducting precise and accurate research to test fundamental theories of physics,” said Postal Service in a release.
Known to some as “The First Lady of Physics” Wu’s trailblazing career began in China. A middle child and the only daughter, Wu attended Mingde Women’s Vocational Continuing School, founded by her father, who believed in educating women even though it was against societal norms of the time, according to the NPS.
Wu graduated at the top of her class with a degree in physics from Nanjing University before immigrating to the United States in the 1930s, where she met her husband at the University of California Berkeley and obtained a PhD in physics. She never saw her family again, first due to World War II and later her father's warning not to return to Communist China, according to the NPS, but when she died in 1997, her ashes were buried in the Mingde School courtyard.
She died of a stroke at 84 in Manhattan, leaving behind her husband, Dr. Luke C. L. Yuan, and a son Vincent Yuan — Jada Yuan’s father.
After Jada shared news of the stamp, which was designed by Art Director Ethel Kessler with original art by Kam Mak, fans on social media paid tribute to Wu, sharing their own stories.
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