Top 17 Famous Chinese Scientists That You Should Know

Top 17 Famous Chinese Scientists That You Should Know

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To celebrate scientists and scientific advancements, we have collected a list of the most famous Chinese scientists that will inspire us for the greater good.

Chinese scientists have contributed to the world by making it a better place. They gave us a series of inventions and discoveries that made life easier.

We scoured top publications like the Nobel Prize and the Chinese Academy of Sciences to put together some well-known Chinese scientists.

This list of famous Chinese scientists is long and diverse. A number of these names have profoundly impacted the world, while others have made meaningful contributions to Chinese history, culture, and society. 

This article will provide a brief history of the 17 most famous  Chinese scientists whose work has been highly influential globally.

Let’s dive in!

Table of Contents

Famous Chinese Scientists

#17. Chern, Shiing-Shen 陳省身 (1911-2004): The Father of Differential Geometry

Famous Chinese Scientists : Credits: Nankai University
Credits: Nankai University

What makes Shiing-Shen Chern famous?

The Chinese-American mathematician, Shiing-Shen Chern, is known for his work in differential geometry and topology. He developed concepts such as Chern’s conjecture, which have contributed to our understanding of differential geometry and topology.

Chern won several prizes and honors, including the Wolf and Shaw prizes. These are two of the most prestigious prizes given to mathematicians. 

The International Mathematical Union celebrates his work through the Chern Medal, given every four years to an outstanding mathematician.

[Source: Encyclopedia Britannica]

#16. Chang, Mee-Mann 張彌曼 (1936-present): One of The Influential Women in Science

Famous Chinese Scientists : Credits: Asian Scientist Magazine
Credits: Asian Scientist Magazine

What makes Chang Mee-Mann famous?

If you’re a paleontologist, you’ve probably heard of Chang Mee-Mann. She was born in Nanjing in 1936 and has spent most of her life studying vertebrate paleontology. 

Chang Mee-Mann has been studying dinosaurs and other vertebrates since she was young. She believes that understanding them is critical to understanding our own history. 

We need to understand our history if we’re going to have a future. Chang Mee-Mann made the work easier for us with her research.

[Source: Asian Scientists]

#15. Xu, Chenyang 许晨阳 (1981-present): One of The Foremost Experts in Algebraic Geometry

Famous Chinese Scientists

What makes Xu Chenyang famous?

Xu Chenyang is a Chinese mathematician and professor of mathematics at Princeton University.

He’s best known for his work on algebraic geometry, which was recognized by the award of the prestigious New Horizons Prize in 2019. Xu was also awarded the Ramanujan Prize for his achievements in mathematics, particularly birational geometry.

[Source: Wikipedia]

#14. Zu, Chongzhi 祖沖之 (429-500 AD): The Man Who Figured Out Pi Without Using a Calculator

Famous Chinese Scientists : Credits: What China
Credits: What China

What makes Zu Chongzhi famous?

If you’re looking for a mathematician who lived in the Song Dynasty, you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone better than Zu Chongzhi. This Chinese mathematician and astronomer was born in 429 AD, and while he didn’t have much of an impact on the world, his contributions to math were essential.

Zu’s most famous work provided an accurate value of pi—3.1415926. This record remained unbroken for more than 800 years.

Zu Chongzhi’s pi was not improved until after 962 by the Persian mathematician Cassie under Arab rule. Cassie simplified the calculation using the half-angle formula of the cosine function. A thousand years after Zu Chong, the German mathematician Otto also discovered the secret rate.

[Source: Encyclopedia Britannica]

#13. Zhang Zhongjing 張機 (150-219 CE): One of The Fathers of Chinese Traditional Medicine

Famous Chinese Scientists : Credits: Encyclopedia Britannica
Credits: Encyclopedia Britannica

What makes Zhang Zhongjing famous?

The Han Dynasty was an important time for Chinese medicine. It saw the advent of a new system of medicine known as Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), which was based on theories about how the body worked and what caused diseases.

A prominent Chinese scientist lived during this time. Zhang Zhongjing, formal name Zhang Ji 仲景, was born in Nanyang. He is best known for developing TCM, which practitioners still use today worldwide. 

[Source: Encyclopedia Britannica]

#12. Qin, Jiushao 秦九韶 (1202-1261): The Man Who Invented The Rain Gauge

Famous Chinese Scientists : Credits: SCHHG
Credits: SCHHG

What makes Qin Jiushao famous?

Qin Jiushao was a mathematician and meteorologist who lived during the Southern Song Dynasty. He’s best known for his contribution to the development of Horner’s Method, which he used for polynomial evaluation.

The Southern Song Dynasty was an important period in Chinese history because it saw the rise of several great inventions, including the magnetic compass. Qin Jiushao is credited with inventing Tianchi basins. They functioned like rain gauges and allowed him to conduct meteorological studies accurately.

[Source: Encyclopedia Britannica]

#11. Wu Jianping 吴建平 (1953-present): One of The Pioneering Internet Technologists

Famous Chinese Scientists : Credits: Internet Hall of Fame
Credits: Internet Hall of Fame

What makes Wu Jianping famous?

Wu Jianping is a computer scientist who’s made his mark on internet technology in China. This Internet Hall of Famer is best known for promoting the country’s next generation of the internet.

His work in computer science has shaped our understanding of computer routing and protocols. Jianping is also famous for his work at CERNET (China Education and Research Network), which is famous for the IPv6 Internet backbone.

[Source: Internet Hall of Fame]

#10. Tang Ching Wan 鄧青雲 (1947-present): The Co-Inventor of Organic LED

Famous Chinese Scientists : Credits: Asian Scientists Magazine 
Credits: Asian Scientists Magazine 

What makes Tang Ching Wan famous?

Tang Ching Wan is a scientist whose inventions in physical chemistry are currently used in televisions and photovoltaic cells.

He was born in 1947 in Yuen Long, Hong Kong, and studied for his Doctor of Philosophy at Cornell University.

Tang and Steven Van Slyke gained national recognition for their invention of Organic Light-emitting diodes.  In 2018, Tang became one of the National Hall of Fame inductees from Hong Kong. 

He is also known for inventing the hetero-junction OPV (organic photovoltaic cell) that has been widely used since its creation.

[Source: National Inventors Hall of Fame]

#9. Frank Chen Ning Yang 杨振宁 (1922-present): One of The Fathers of Modern Physics

Famous Chinese Scientists : Credits: Encyclopedia Britannica
Credits: Encyclopedia Britannica

What makes Frank Chen Ning Yang famous?

When you think of the science world, you probably don’t think of one person. All sorts of amazing people have shaped this field, including Frank Chen Ning Yang.

He is one of the most influential physicists of all time. Chen Ning Yang is known for his contributions to several areas of physics, including integrable systems, statistical mechanics, gauge theory, condensed matter physics, and particle physics.

His work on weak interaction won him a joint Nobel Prize with Tsung-Dao Lee in 1957. This was an important subject of study because it demonstrated how subatomic particles interact with each other.

Chen-Ning also collaborated with another scientist, Robert Mills, to develop the Yang-Mills theory. This concept is essential in mathematical physics, especially the gauge theory.

[Source: The Nobel Prize]

#8. Shi Yigong 施一公 (1967-present): One of The Foremost Experts in Biophysics

Famous Chinese Scientists : Credits: Laitimes
Credits: Laitimes

What makes Shi Yigong famous?

If you’re a biophysicist, you may have heard of the name Shi Yigong. He’s a man who is famous for his contributions to RNA splicing and protein X-ray crystallography. 

Shi was born in Zhengzhou in 1967, where he became an expert in biophysics. He helped discover how proteins splice RNA molecules together during an organism’s lifetime. Because of this work, scientists can now study how cells function and develop at a molecular level.

[Source: Hong Kong Baptist University]

#7. Tsung-Dao Lee 李政道 (1926-present): The Youngest Chinese-American Nobel Laureate in Physics 1957 

Famous Chinese Scientists : Credits: CDS
Credits: CDS

What makes Tsung-Dao Lee famous?

Tsung-Dao Lee was born in Shanghai, China, in 1926. He would go on to become one of the most important physicists globally.

This Chinese-American physicist made enormous contributions to physics through his work on the Lee-Yang theorem, parity violation, and particle physics.

He shared the 1957 Nobel Prize for Physics with Chen Ning Yang for their work on weak interaction. Lee was awarded the prize at the age of 30. Since he became an American citizen, Lee remains the youngest US Nobel Laureate ever.

[Source: The Nobel Prize]

#6. Lin Lanying 林兰英 (1918-2003): The Mother of Aerospace Materials and Semiconductor Materials

Famous Chinese Scientists : Credits: forwardpathway
Credits: forwardpathway

What makes Lin Lanying famous?

Lin Lanying was born in Fujian Province, China, and studied physics at Fukien Christian University. She went on to study mathematics at Dickinson College.

Lanying is best known for her contributions to optoelectronics and microelectronics. She is credited with inventing the first monocrystalline silicon in China and building the first furnace to extract silicon metal. 

In addition, Lanying was also responsible for creating a method for making integrated circuits using only one chip per piece of equipment.

Many people have called her “the mother of semiconductor materials” because she made significant contributions to the study of semiconductors, which led to the creation of many useful products like flat panel displays, mobile phones, and more.

[Source: China Vitae]

#5. Andrew Chi-Chih Yao 姚期智(1946-present): The Turing Award Laureate Who Contributed To Our Understanding of Computer Science

Famous Chinese Scientists : Credits: South China Morning Post
Credits: South China Morning Post

What makes Andrew Yao famous?

The world is big, and we’re all trying to figure out how to get from here to there. But sometimes, it’s helpful to have a little help along the way.

That’s why we’re so excited about Andrew Yao, who has provided us with the tools and insights we need to understand computer science concepts.

Andrew Yao, born in Shanghai, is a computational theorist and professor who has made significant contributions to the field of computational complexity theory. He provided proof for Yao’s Principle, a concept that helps us understand computational complexity theory. 

Andrew Yao won the 2000 Turing Award for his contributions to computer science.

[Source: A.M. Turing ]

#4. Chien-Shiung Wu 吳健雄 (1912-1997): Chinese Madame Curie Who Stopped World War II

Famous Chinese Scientists : Credits: Sc4 Library
Credits: Sc4 Library

What makes Chien-Shiung Wu famous?

Chien-Shiung Wu was a physicist born in China in 1912 and studied at Nanjing University before moving to the United States. She became one of the most famous physicists in the world for her work on the Manhattan Project, where she helped develop the first nuclear weapons during World War II.

Her scientific career is best known for her contributions to the Wu experiment. This was an important research project that examined parity from a different angle. Her knowledge of experimental physics earned her the title “Chinese Madame Curie” within the scientific community.

What is the best Chien-Shiung Wu quote?

“There is only one thing worse than coming home from the lab to a sink full of dirty dishes, and that is not going to the lab at all.”

[Source: Atomic Heritage Foundation]

#3. Charles Kun Kao 高錕 (1933-2018): Father of Fiber Optic Communications

Famous Chinese Scientists : Credits: Lindau Mediatheque
Credits: Lindau Mediatheque

What makes Charles K. Kao famous?

Charles K. Kao is one of the most influential figures in the history of telecommunications. He helped shape the world we live in today by developing better ways to communicate and access information.

His work with lasers and glass fibers revolutionized the internet. He helped create fiber optics, which allow us to transmit data at super high speeds. This discovery earned him the Nobel Prize in Physics.

Kao was a man of the world. While he was born in China, he had citizenship for both the UK and US.

What’s the best Charles K. Kao quote?

“If you really look at it, I was trying to sell a dream…There was very little I could put in concrete to tell these people it was really real.”

[Source: The Nobel Prize]

#2. Min Chueh Chang 张明觉 (1908-1991): The Scientist Who Invented a Pill That Changed Everything 

Famous Chinese Scientists : Credits: Wiley Online Library
Credits: Wiley Online Library

What makes Min Chueh Chang famous?

Born in China in 1908, Chang studied at Tsinghua University in Beijing before traveling to Britain to earn a Ph.D. in animal breeding. 

Chang invented the birth control pill (also known as the combined oral contraceptive pill), one of women’s first birth control methods. This invention has since revolutionized human fertility rates around the globe and helped prevent unintended pregnancies worldwide.

Chang is also credited with being among the first prominent scientists to use in vitro fertilization (IVF).  His research resulted in the first-ever test-tube baby in the world.

[Source: Encyclopedia]

#1. Tu YouYou 屠呦呦 (1930-present): The Pioneer in The Fight Against Malaria

Famous Chinese Scientists : Credits: The Nobel Prize
Credits: The Nobel Prize

What makes Tu Youyou famous?

The Chinese malariologist, Tu Youyou, has made enormous contributions to the development of malaria research.

Tu is a well-known scientist. She was the first to discover artemisinin and dihydroartemisinin. This was a breakthrough in the treatment of malaria. Physicians widely used it in the 20th century to treat the disease. Her discovery has saved millions of lives over the past decade.

Tu Youyou won the Lasker Award in 2011, becoming the first Chinese to do so. She also shared the 2015 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine with Satoshi Ōmura and William C. Campbell.

What is the best Tu Youyou quote?

” Every scientist dreams of doing something that can help the world.”

[Source: The Nobel Prize]

Final Thoughts

In the modern world, more and more countries are competing with each other in terms of high-tech achievements. And Chinese scientists delivered top-notch technology in medicine, the internet, and infrastructure.

We can all learn something from these scientists. Don’t just stay in your comfort zone and follow the beaten path. It may take a long time to get to where you want to be, but the journey is ultimately worth it. 

If you like what you’re doing, then you will do it better, and it will, in turn, bring you more satisfaction than if you were just working for the money. 

Who is your best Chinese scientist? Let us know in the comment section below.

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Joannah W.
Joannah has been a science publisher with close to 20 years of experience. She wants to help students and researchers stay ahead of the trends and developments in the science community by making science more accessible to everyone.

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