Queen of Physics

Queen of Physics: How Wu Chien Shiung Helped Unlock the Secrets of the Atom By Teresa Robeson, Illustrated by Rebecca Huang (2019) – hardcover

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Queen of Physics is a fascinating biography of a brilliant nuclear physicist who deserves way more recognition than she’s received. Dr. Wu Chien-Shiung was a revolutionary in the field of nuclear physics, having completed groundbreaking research that repeatedly went ignored by the Nobel Foundation, the awards instead going to her male colleagues. She was a woman of many firsts: the first woman at Princeton University to be hired as an instructor and the first woman to receive an honorary doctorate, the first woman to be elected president of The American Physical Society, the first person to receive the Wolf Prize in Physics, and much more! 

This biography tells the inspiring story of a young Chinese girl who developed a passion for science, at a time when most girls did not even attend school, and how she came to be known as the “Queen of Physics” and “The First Lady of Physics Research,” among other nicknames. Before I came across this book, I had never heard of Dr. Wu. As a female, Chinese immigrant in the early 20th century, she’s unfortunately become just another example of the “whitewashing” of American history. She studied at UC Berkeley, was a faculty member at Smith College, instructed Naval officers at Princeton University, and became a research professor at Columbia University. She made vital contributions to the Manhattan Project. And was considered the world’s leading expert in beta decay, with her book “Beta Decay” still being used as a leading reference text on the subject. Her history is very much part of American history, and it’s a shame that her legacy has been widely ignored. 

I encourage you all to explore her life further. I’ve been so enlightened after having done so myself. Author Teresa Robeson wonderfully includes further reading sources and a selected biography at the back of this book, in addition to an expanded biography and glossary of scientific terms used in the story to amplify the learning experience for your little reader. This truly is a must-have STEM addition for any children’s library! 

Take-away message: You can’t let prejudices stop you from achieving your goals. Dr. Wu continuously fought prejudices against women and Asians to become the world’s leading expert in her field. Her story is sure to inspire!

TAGS: STEM, female lead, notable POC, Asian, Chinese, hardcover


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