Yu Min. (File Photo)
Yu Min, a prominent nuclear physicist known as the father of China's hydrogen bomb, died in Beijing on Wednesday at the age of 93.
The China Academy of Engineering Physics first announced Yu's death online, and the Chinese Academy of Sciences, where Yu is an academician, also confirmed his death.
Yu had been involved in China's theoretical research of nuclear weapons since 1960. For the next 28 years, Yu and his work remained top national secrets. Not even his wife, Sun Yuqin, knew what he was doing, according to Yu's biography published in Science and Technology Daily.
On June 17, 1967, China surprised the world by successfully detonating its first hydrogen bomb in the Lop Nur region of the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region. It was 32 months between its first atomic bomb to its first hydrogen bomb.
The feat was achieved using a single old-school computer, most of whose operating time was used in calculating data for the atomic bomb. To save time, Yu would memorize data and calculate with peers using pencils and slide rules, often for hours at a time.
Yu was one of the leading scientists in overcoming obstacles in the design of the H-bomb. As a result, in 1999, Yu received the Two Bombs, One Satellite Achievement Medal, the country's top award for scientists who contributed to China's nuclear and satellite programs.
In 2015, Yu received the State Preeminent Science and Technology Award, the nation's highest scientific honor. Yu, however, humbly rejected the title "father of China's hydrogen bomb", saying the achievement belongs to the whole team.
"A man's name will vanish in time, but if he can contribute slightly to the nation's prosperity, he will be satisfied," Yu said. "Without nuclear power, our nation could not achieve true independence. I had no choice but to devote myself to this grand project."
Born on Aug 16, 1926, to an ordinary family in Tianjin, Yu had shown great curiosity and potential for science at an early age. His talent eventually landed him in Peking University, where he would study under noted physicist Zhang Zongsui.
Extremely insightful and logical, yet humble and hardworking, Yu excelled at explaining complex ideas in simple terms, and his academic reports were very popular among peers, Zhang said. "I had never seen anyone excel in physics quite like him."
Unlike many of Yu's peers who studied abroad before returning home to join the nuclear program, Yu did not study abroad. Many referred to him as the "first domestic expert" in his field.