Happy Chinese New Year! Whether you say gong hay fat choy or gong xi fa cai, we wish you a happy year of the monkey! While we know that women have historically been dissuaded from studying STEM, there are some Chinese women who have made incredible contributions to the world! Keep reading to find out who four of these amazing women are.
1. Tu Youyou (1930): Nobel Laureate in Medicine for discovering artemisinin and dihydroartemisinin as anti-malarial treatments. In 1969, Tu began work under Mao Zedong to find a treatment to malaria. During the Vietnam War, malaria was a major cause of death in Asia and after testing thousands of compounds to no success, Tu was inspired by ancient, traditional Chinese writings on medicine and found that artemisinin and dihydroartemisinin were effective. Though not famous for her work, her discoveries have saved thousands of lives. In 2015 she became the first Chinese Nobel Laureate in physiology or medicine.
2. Dr. Chien-Shiung Wu (1912 - 1997): Physicist. The "First Lady of Physics," as Wu is sometimes called, was born and raised in China where she began studying physics. In 1936, Wu travelled to the United States where she studied at the University of California at Berkeley. After completing her Ph.D., Wu worked at Princeton University and later joined the Manhattan Project underway at Columbia University where she helped develop a process to separate uranium into isotopes by gaseous diffusion. In 1956, Wu conducted the Wu Experiment, a nuclear physics experiment which found that weak interaction violated the conservation of parity and that distinguishes could be made between mirrored variations and mirrored images.
3. Dr. Lanying Lin (1918 - 2003): Materials Engineer. Langying Lin, the Mother of Aerospace Materials and the Mother of Semiconductor Materials, was a Chinese materials engineer who defied gender barriers and fought for her education. After receiving her Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania, Lin returned home to China where her research led her to make China's first monocrystalline silicon and a furnace to extract silicon. In addition, her research also led to the development of microelectronics and optoelectronics and earned her multiple awards throughout her life.
4. Wang Zhenyi (1768 - 1797): Astronomer and poet. One of China's earliest documented females in STEM, Zhenyi was an astronomer and poet who educated herself at a time when women were not encouraged to pursue an education. Some of her many writings on astronomy and mathematics explained equinoxes, lunar eclipses and the Pythagorean Theorem.