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Peking University celebrates 110th anniv. of founding of physics discipline
Oct 20, 2023
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A group photo taken at the 110 Anniversary Ceremony of the PKU School of Physics

Peking University, October 19, 2023: On Oct. 14, Peking University (PKU) School of Physics celebrated the 110th anniversary of the founding of its physics discipline at the Sunshine Hall of Yingjie Overseas Exchange Center. Peking University Council Chair Hao Ping and President Gong Qihuang graced the event, which was hosted by Academician Gao Yuanning, dean of the School of Physics. 

Many notable physics scholars, along with representatives from other institutes of higher education, enterprises, and the PKU Physics Alumni Association, also participated in the celebration. 

In 1902, the inception of the Department of Mathematical Physics in the Department of Education of the Imperial University of Peking (the PKU predecessor) opened the doors for China’s higher professional education in mathematical physics. 

In 1913, the Department of Physics, then known as the “Physics Discipline,” became the first Physics department in Chinese undergraduate education. The change in name to the “Department of Physics” in 1919 marked the birth of physics as a new independent area of study. In 1935, Ma Shijun, Guo Yonghuai, Zhuo Li, and Zhao Songhe became the first batch of graduate students enrolled in the Department of Physics.

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Guo Yonghuai

In 1938, in the midst of the Chinese People's War of Resistance against Japanese Aggression, PKU, Tsinghua University and Nankai University formed the Southwest Associated University Department of Physics. Professors and students persevered through tough times, building laboratories and working on experimental research projects. Outstanding alumni such as Yang Zhenning, Li Zhengdao, Huang Kun, Deng Jiaxian, and Zhu Guangya went on to become some of the greatest Chinese physicists.

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PKU Physics lab in the 1940s

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Professors and students celebrate the National Day in 1949 

In 1952, the Peking University Department of Physics underwent restructuring, gathering talents from Peking University, Tsinghua University, and Yenching University. In 1955, PKU established its Physics Research Centre, which eventually evolved into the present-day Department of Technical Physics.

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A photo taken in the 1990s shows a class at the PKU Department of Physics 

Henceforth, the department has diverged into many more divisions and research institutes to keep up with the ever-evolving academic scene, going beyond the traditional areas of physics to explore physical sciences and develop interdisciplinary courses such as the Institute of Theoretical Physics, Institute of Condensed Matter and Material Physics, and the Department of Astronomy. Building on a myriad of specializations, the PKU School of Physics was officially established in 2001. 
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The inaugural conference for the Peking University School of Physics in 2001

Over the past 110 years, the PKU School of Physics has produced numerous respectable and outstanding scientists, including Yang Zhenning and Li Zhengdao, who have played significant roles in shaping China’s physics education. Eight out of the ten senior physicists awarded the Chinese Physical Society Lifetime Contribution Award were PKU professors and alumni, signifying the school’s exemplary academic standards. 

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13 PKU Physics professors are also academicians of the Chinese Academy of Sciences

On the international front, the School of Physics also sees rising global influence through organizing international conferences and seminars, alongside its various faculty members participating in international scientific organizations and journals.

With its distinguished contributions to the advancement of physics, the PKU School of Physics plays a crucial role in extending PKU's scholarly tradition, serving as a frontier of innovation and research from the past till the modern world.
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PKU School of Physics today

Written by: Yong Kai Qing
Edited by: Wu Jiayun
Source: PKU School of Physics