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June 10, 2014

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Home » Metro » Health and Science

Physicist’s diaries gifted to Fudan University

A collection of diaries, manuscripts and other items once owned by the renowned nuclear physicist Lu Hefu, also known as Hoff Lu, has been donated to Shanghai’s Fudan University.

A total of 206 items were given to the university, where Lu worked as a professor for 45 years, by his family to mark the 100th anniversary of his birth, it said yesterday.

“The diaries are precious as very few academics keep them. These are the first we’ve ever had,” Yang Jiarun, an official at the university, told Shanghai Daily.

“Reading them is like watching a film of Lu’s life,” he said.

The collection was sent to Shanghai from the United States in seven packing cases, and is now in the university’s archive, Yang said.

The diaries contain fascinating details of Lu’s work and life in the 27 years prior to his death in 1997.

They were divided by Lu into two series — Hong and Zhuan — which translate as “red” and “expert,” but together form a phrase coined by Chairman Mao in 1958 to describe cadres who were considered politically sound and professionally competent.

Among the other items donated was a notebook — with a cover made from cigarette packets — in which Lu recorded the meetings he had with foreign guests. Lu liked to smoke, Yang said, adding that his many visitors included two winners of the Nobel Prize for Physics — Yang Zhenning and Tsung-Dao Lee — and several noted scientists from the US.

Lu was born in Shenyang, capital of northeast China’s Liaoning Province, in 1914 into an intellectual family. From a young age he showed a keen interest in natural science.

In 1932, he was admitted to study physics at Yenching University in Beijing. In 1936, he went to the University of Minnesota in the US to study modern physics and atomic physics.

During his stay, Lu became the first person to measure the natural abundance ratio of lithium-7 and lithium-6.

In 1941, Lu gave up a well-paying job in the US and returned to China. He also quit a research project he had been working on with two US physicists, who went on to win the Nobel Prize in Physics for it.

But Lu continued his research and after World War II published an article on the physics of the atom bomb, which was the first to explain the actual principles of the device, Yang said.

In 1952, Lu joined Fudan University as a professor, where he taught many budding Chinese scientists, several of whom went on to work on research projects into the atomic bomb.

While many of Lu’s academic manuscripts are now outdated, they record his strict attitude to scientific research, and that is something that’s still worth learning, Yang said.


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