Peng Huanwu

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Peng Huanwu (Chinese: 彭桓武; October 6, 1915 – February 28, 2007) was a renowned theoretical physicist of China, a member of Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS), and a leader of Chinese nuclear weaponry projects.[1]

Life and career[edit]

Peng was born in Changchun, Jilin Province, with ancestry from Macheng County, Hubei Province. After graduating from department of physics of Tsinghua University, Peng continued to pursue his postgraduate degree. After the outbreak of the Second Sino-Japanese War in July 1937, he went to teach at Yunnan University. In 1938, Peng was enrolled in foreign study program and went to study at University of Edinburgh in Scotland, and worked with prominent physicist Max Born. Peng obtained his degree in philosophy and science doctorate degree in 1940 and 1945, respectively.

Recommended by Born, Peng worked at Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies in Ireland as a postdoctoral scholar from 1941-1943 and later as an assistant professor from 1945-1947. While at DIAS Peng worked with another one of Born's students Sheila Tinney to produce important work on crystal lattices.[2][3] From August 1941 to July 1943, Peng collaborated with Walter Heitler and James Hamilton to study cosmic ray, and developed HHP theory.[4][5][6] Together with Born, Peng was awarded the Makdougall Brisbane Prize by the Royal Society of Edinburgh in 1945. Cécile DeWitt-Morette was supervised by him working on the production of artificial mesons in 1946.[7] He was elected as a member of Royal Irish Academy in 1948.

Peng returned to China in 1947, and taught at Yunnan University, Tsinghua University, Peking University and University of Science and Technology of China. He was involved in and led the development of China's atomic bomb and hydrogen bomb. He served as vice director of Institute of Modern Physics of CAS, vice director of Institute of High Energy Physics of CAS, among other posts. From 1978 to 1983, he was the director of Institute of Theoretical Physics of CAS.

Peng received numerous prestigious prizes in China including National Natural Science Prize and National Science and Technology Advancement Prize. In recognition of his contribution to China's nuclear physics, the asteroid #48798 was named after him as "Penghuanwu".[8]


  1. ^ Institute of Theoretical Physics, Chinese Academy of Sciences: Huan-Wu Peng
  2. ^ MacTutor biography of Sheila Christina Power Tinney
  3. ^ "On the stability of crystal lattices VIII. Stability of rhombohedral Bravais lattices" (with S. C. Power), Mathematical Proceedings of the Cambridge Philosophical Society, Vol 38, Issue 1, January 1942, pp. 67-81
  4. ^ W. Heitler and H. W. Peng Anomalous Scattering of Mesons, Phys. Rev. 62 (1942) 81 – 82, Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies, Dublin Ireland, Received 22 May 1942.
  5. ^ W. Heitler and H. W. Peng, Proc. Camb. Phil. Soc. 38 (1942), 296
  6. ^ J. Hamilton, W. Heitler, and H. W. Peng Theory of Cosmic-Ray Mesons Physical Review Volume 64, Issue 3-4, pp. 78-94, Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies, Dublin, Ireland.
  7. ^ C. Morette and H. W. Peng, Nature. 160 (1947), 59-60
  8. ^ Asteroid Named after Chinese Physicist