Dedicated to Wang Ganchang’s birthday

News, 28 May 2023

28 May marks the birthday of one of the JINR founders, a prominent Chinese scientist, a researcher in the fields of nuclear physics, cosmic rays, and elementary particle physics, CAS Academician Wang Ganchang (1907–1998). Wang Ganchang achieved worldwide recognition by making a major contribution to the development of Chinese science and technology, high technology. In 1956, the Chinese government sent him to JINR to develop high energy physics in China. At JINR, he was first a researcher until 1958 and the JINR Vice-Director from 1958 to 1960.

Wang Ganchang was born in Changshu, Jiangsu Province, on 28 May 1907. In 1929, he graduated from the Physical Department of Tsinghua University, and then continued his studies in Germany. In 1934, he received a degree of Doctor of Philosophy and returned to China. There, he first worked at Shandong University and then headed the Physical Department of Zhejiang University (1936–1950).

In 1930, Wang was the first to propose using the Wilson chamber to study a new type of high-energy rays induced by the bombardment of beryllium by α-particles. An English physicist James Chadwick conducted the same experiment a year later and discovered a new type of particles, the neutron. Chadwick received the Nobel Prize in Physics for this discovery in 1935.

In 1941, at the suggestion of Wang Ganchang, the international scientific circle experimentally proved the existence of neutrinos for the first time. In the 1950s, the first cosmic ray laboratory in high mountains was created in China based on Wang’s creative idea.

During his years at the Institute, Wang Ganchang took part in the creation of the propane bubble chamber at the JINR Synchrophasotron. He became one of the co-authors of the “antisigma-minus hyperon” discovery at JINR in 1960, heading the group of discoverers of the particle. To detect it, scientists analysed more than 40,000 photographs, which recorded tens of thousands of nuclear interactions. Wang Ganchang was awarded the PRC State Prize in science for this outstanding contribution.

At the end of 1960, Wang Gangchang left JINR and returned to Beijing, where he actively participated in the Chinese atomic bomb development programme. In October 1964, the first atomic bomb test was successfully conducted.

Wang Ganchang combined many high posts at Chinese academic and political organizations. In 1978–1983, the scientist headed the China Institute of Atomic Energy (CIAE), making a significant contribution to its development and formation.

Under the supervision and with the participation of the outstanding scientist, a pleiad of nuclear physicists of China was trained, experimental facilities were constructed and modernised, and the National Laboratory of Nuclear Physics of the Beijing Accelerator was established, as well as other centres. Thus, Wang Ganchang inspired not only the CIAE–JINR collaboration but also the China–Russia one.

He was an Honorary Doctor of the Moscow State University, a winner of the State Prize of China in science and technology. He was posthumously awarded the prize “Two bombs, one satellite” for merits to the Chinese nuclear programme. Since 2000, the Wang Ganchang Prize of the Chinese Physical Society has been awarded to physicists in elementary particle physics and inertial confinement nuclear fusion.