Ta-You Wu

Ta-You Wu

Ta-You Wu (zh-cp|c=吴大猷|p=Wú Dàyóu) was a Chinese-born atomic and nuclear theoretical physicist (1907-2000) who worked in the United States, Canada, mainland China, and Taiwan. He has been called the "Father of Chinese Physics."

Wu was born in Guangzhou (Canton) on September 27, 1907. In 1929 he took his undergraduate degree at Nankai University in Tianjin (Tientsin). He moved to the United States for graduate schooling and took a Doctor of Philosophy Degree from the University of Michigan in 1933. Dr. Wu returned to China, and between 1934 and 1949 he taught at various institutions there, including Peking University in Beijing, and National Southwest Associated University in Kunming. In 1949, the year of the defeat of the Communists over the Nationalists in the Chinese Civil War, Wu fled to Canada. There he headed the Theoretical Physics Division of the National Research Council until 1963. In the late 1960s, he was chair of the department of Physics and Astronomy at the State University of New York at Buffalo. After 1962, he held various positions in Taiwan, including President of the Academia Sinica (1983-1994). He continued lecturing into his 90s and died on March 4, 2000.

Wu's Ph.D. dissertation dealt with theoretical predictions of the chemical properties of the yet undiscovered transuranic elements of the actinide series, which includes such well known elements as plutonium and americium. Later in his career, he worked on solid-state physics, molecular physics, statistical physics, and other areas of theoretical physics. He was known as a teacher as much as a theoretician. His many illustriuous students include Chen Ning Yang and Tsung-Dao Lee, co-winners of the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1957.

Dr. Wu wrote several books, best known of which are the monograph "Vibrational Spectra and Structure of Polyatomic Molecules" (1939) and the graduate level textbooks "Quantum Mechanics" (1986) and (as co-author) "Relativistic Quantum Mechanics and Quantum Fields" (1991).

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