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China's Veteran Nuclear Researcher Dies at 94
   2016-05-30 15:46:18    CRIENGLISH.com      Web Editor: Li Linxi

A file photo of Chen Nengkuan. [Photo: sohu.com]

Chinese physicist Chen Nengkuan, who made great contributions to the country's nuclear weapons research, passed away in Beijing on Thursday, May 27, 2016, at the age of 94.

Chen had long been engaged in metal physics and material science research.

His research played a vital role to the development of China's atomic bombs and hydrogen bombs in the 1960s.

In 1999, Chen was given a special award for his contributions to the nation.

 

More about Chen Nengkuan

Chen Nengkuan reads a book at an archive in 1998. [Photo: qq.com]

Chen was born in 1923, in a middle-class family in central China's Hunan Province.

After graduating from Yali High School in Changsha city, Chen obtained a bachelor's degree from the National Tangshan Engineering College (now Southwest Jiaotong University) in 1946.

Chen then obtained his doctorate in metallurgy from Yale University in the United States.

He worked for Johns Hopkins University and Westinghouse Electric as a researcher after his graduation.

An undated photo shows Chen Nengkuan (the 2nd person from right side) in a laboratory. [Photo: swju.edu.cn]

In 1955, after nearly nine years in the US, Chen returned to China.

He worked as a researcher at the Institute of Applied Physics of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, becoming a leading member of China's early national defense program the "Nuclear Bombs and Satellite" project. 

 

The Nuclear Bombs and Satellite Project

October 16, 1964, China successfully explodes its first atomic bomb.  [Photo: Xinhua]

Based on the world situation in the wake of World War II and the Korea War, China decided to pursue nuclear weapons in the 1950s.

However, this was not easy for a country emerging from ashes of decades of wars.

When the People's Republic of China was founded in 1949, the Soviet Union agreed to aid China technologically in the development of its nuclear industry. However, in June 1959, the USSR refused to provide relevant information as it had previously promised.

Moreover, the Soviet Union recalled all technicians and advisers from China.

China would have to develop nuclear technology all on its own.

Around 3,000 Chinese scientists, mostly in western countries, returned home between 1950 and 1957, to help their country reach this goal.

On October 16, 1964, China successfully tested its first atomic bomb.

On the same day, the Chinese government declared that China developed nuclear weapons only for the purpose of self-defense and safeguarding national security. China would never at any time or under any circumstances be the first to use nuclear weapons.

32 months after the atomic bomb, China detonated its first hydrogen bomb on June 14, 1967.

China became the world's fifth nuclear nation, following the United States, the Soviet Union, Britain and France.

In 1996, China signed the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.

 

The Nuclear Bombs and Satellite Meritorious Award

April 24, 1970, China uses the ¡°Long March" rocket to launch the first artificial satellite "Dongfanghong I" successfully. [Photo: Xinhua]

The success of the atomic and hydrogen bombs and the subsequent Satellite launch marked a milestone in the advancement of China's national defense as well as the achievement in science and technology for the young republic.

"If it were not for the atomic bomb, the hydrogen bomb and the satellite that we put into orbit in the 1960s, China would not have its international standing as it enjoys today", former Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping once remarked during his term of office.

In September 1999, the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China, the State Council and the military commission of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China jointly granted scientists the special meritorious award for their contributions to the nation.

Chen Nengkuan was among the 23 recipients.

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