Wu, C. S. & S. A. Moszkowski

Beta Decay

  • First edition, first printing of “the standard reference on low-energy emission of electrons by decaying atoms” by the foremost female physicist of her generation, Chien-Shiung Wu (Columbia University Record obituary, February 21st, 1997) A lovely copy, and uncommon in the dust jacket.

    Wu grew up in China and attended a school founded by her father, a supporter of women’s education. She studied physics in Shanghai, completed her PhD at Berkeley in 1940, and in 1944 joined the Manhattan project at Columbia University. Wu helped develop the Project’s gaseous diffusion method of separating uranium metal into the U-235 and U-238 isotopes, the process that would be scaled up as a massive industry at Oak Ridge. She also identified xenon-135 poisoning as the cause of repeated failures at the Hanford reactor. After the war, Wu was appointed to the Columbia faculty and began doing important work on beta decay, the process by which the nucleus one one radioactive element changes into another. Among her contributions was the first confirmation of Enrico Fermi’s theory of beta decay. “In 1956, she was approached by theoretical physicists Tsung Dao Lee and Chen Ning Yang who knew about her expertise in beta decay. They asked her to devise an experiment to prove their theory that the law of conservation of parity did not hold true during beta decay. The law of parity states that all objects and their mirror images behave the same way, but with the left hand and right hand reversed. Wu's experiments, which utilized radioactive cobalt at near absolute zero temperatures, proved that identical nuclear particles do not always act alike. This resulted in Lee and Yang receiving the 1957 Nobel Prize in Physics for their theory, but Wu's work was not acknowledged”, though she was later awarded the first Wolf Prize in recognition of this achievement (Atomic Heritage Foundation biography). She was also the recipient of the National Medal of Science, the Comstock Prize, and the first honorary doctorate awarded to a woman at Princeton University, and served as the first female president of the American Physical Society.

  • New York: Interscience Publishers, a division of John Wiley & Sons, 1966. 

    Octavo. Original grey cloth, titles to spine and upper board in blue. With the dust jacket. Spotting to the lower edges of the text block, light scuff mark to the upper edge. An excellent, fresh copy in the jacket that is very lightly rubbed at the extremities with a few small spots on the lower panel and flap.

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