Ta-You Wu was born into a family of scholars on September 29, 1907, in Canton, China. He received his Ph.D. in 1933 from the University of Michigan, under the direction of Samuel A. Goudsmit. Wu’s early work on heavy elements pointed to the existence of transuranium atoms.
He returned to China in 1934 to teach at Peking University. In 1938 in Kunming, during the most difficult war time, he managed to write the first book on molecular spectroscopy, Vibrational Spectra and Structure of Polyatomic Molecules, for which he received the 1939 Ting Memorial Prize of the Academia Sinica.
From 1949 to 1963, Dr. Wu directed the Theoretical Physics Division of the National Research Council of Canada. He was chair of the Department of Physics and Astronomy of SUNY-Buffalo from 1966 to 1969. Dr. Wu was appointed Director of the Institute of Physics of Academia Sinica in 1962, Chairman of the National Science Council of the Republic of China in 1967, and Chair of the Committee for Science Development of the National Security Council, Republic of China, in 1967, a position he held for many years. He was President of Academia Sinica from 1983 to 1994. He is now one of the senior Presidential advisors to the government of Taiwan and still lectures occasionally at several universities there.
Under Wu’s leadership, the policies laid down by the National Science Council in 1967—as well as the revision of science curricula and the rewriting of science textbooks in high schools, and the revitalization of Academia Sinica—have made dramatic contributions to the development of science and technology in Taiwan.
Ta-You Wu was deeply respected for his honesty, integrity and moral courage. He has inspired four generations of physics students, in prewar Peking, wartime Kunming, and the postwar United States and Taiwan. Among his students were Nobel Laureates Chen Ning Yang, who delivered the first Ta-You Wu lecture in 1992 , and Tsung Dao Lee, our 1995 lecturer.
Dr. Wu was the author of twenty one books, including a seven-part series on theoretical physics and seven volumes of collected essays. He has published over 120 papers in a wide range of areas in modern and classical physics.
In 1991 the University of Michigan conferred on him an honorary degree of Doctor of Science.
The Citation reads in part:
More than any other individual, Ta-You Wu is responsible for raising physics to its current level in both mainland China and Taiwan [and] it is chiefly for his extraordinary work as a teacher and scientific statesman that Dr. Wu has become known throughout the world . . . . Commending his exceptional influence as a science teacher and policy-maker, the University is proud to bestow upon Ta-You Wu its honorary degree, Doctor of Science.
In 1994, Dr. Wu was awarded the Presidential Medal in Taiwan for his distinguished achievement.