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11 Immigrant Scientists Who Made Great Contributions to America

Chien-Shiung Wu: Experimental physicist (1912–1997)

(Image credit: Bettmann Archive/Getty)

Physicist Chien-Shiung Wu, known as the "First Lady of Physics," was born in Liuhe, Jiangsu province, China. She traveled to the U.S. in 1936 to study physics at the University of California at Berkeley, specializing in nuclear fission and earning a doctoral degree in 1940. She became a U.S. citizen in 1954.

Wu developed instruments for radiation detection as part of the Manhattan Project, and worked with other researchers to develop a process for separating uranium metal into isotopes, which increased the amount of uranium that could power an atomic bomb. She was the first woman elected to the American Physical Society, serving as its president in 1975. Wu was also the first woman to receive the Cyrus B. Comstock Award of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, and the first woman to receive an honorary doctorate from Princeton University.