Physicists established the Department of Physics at the former Northeast People’s University with striving spirit

Originated from the Department of Physics, the former Northeast People’s University, the College of Physics, Jilin University (JU) has gone through 66 years’ development. The establishment of the college is impressive. In 1949, the newly established People’s Republic of China was suffering from both financial distress and talent shortage. Being adjacent to the former Soviet Union, the northeast area was selected as China’s industrial base and many projects supported by Soviet Union were located at the northeast area.

Academician Ruihuang Yu, the first dean of the Department of Physics, the Northeast People’s University

At that time, China was in badly demand of talents for economic development. However, colleges and universities were hardly seen in the northeast area of China. In 1952, the central government decided to establish a comprehensive university being able to carry out international communications in the northeast area. In such a historical background, the Northeast People’s University was born.

Academician Shishu Wu, the second dean of the Department of Physics

Established by the Communist Party of China, the Northeast People’s University carried forward fine revolutionary tradition. In June 1950 when the US launched Korean war, the Northeast People’s University was ordered to move from Shenyang to Changchun. It took the university only 12 days to evacuate all the students since it got the order from the government. With such kind of revolutionary spirit, the Department of Physics of the Northeast People’s University was born. A group of excellent physicists gave up voluntarily their favorable living and working conditions, went to Changchun and devoted themselves with great enthusiasm into the establishment of the physics department. These physicists include Ruihuang Yu, Guangya Zhu, Shishu Wu, Qingquan Gou, Bingquan Huo, Jianxuan Zheng, Chi-en Gao, Zhenbang Huang, Junmin Xie and so on. Changchun was not only cold, but also lack of almost everything.

In those days, talents were badly needed, while limited by the objective conditions, the teachers had to teach the students already got enrolled while establishing the Department of Physics. Forty-eight students of Grade 1 and 2 were drafted into the department from other schools. In 1952, the department enrolled 150 students; another 150 freshmen in the following year and 210 students got enrolled in 1954. In the Department of Physics, there were 7 professors, 2 associate professors, 4 lecturers, 11 assistants and 2 political cadres. In order to get support from the Soviet Union, 24 teachers began to bone up on learning Russian. At the meanwhile, they were establishing labs, compiling teaching materials, and giving lessons to more than 500 students.

Following the fine tradition of the Northeast People’s University, the top-notch physicists had been working day after night. Each of the professors and associate professors was responsible for teaching of 2 curriculars as well as instructing graduation theses. The teachers had to deliver experimental lessons in the under-constructing labs. If the ordered instruments had not arrived yet, they would have to lead the students to the Geological Institute of Changchun to do experiments, or borrow experimental instruments from the normal university. Being underfunded, some teachers bought necessary tools and parts for the labs with their own salary. The spirit of selflessness and struggle was greatly decisive for the establishment and rapid growth of the department. Thanks to these efforts, the Department of Physics, the Northeast People’s University came out among the best departments of physics in China.

Professor Chi-en Gao, a theoretical physicist

In the early days, student source was another challenge for the newly established department due to many reasons. Firstly, there were a few high school graduates in the northeast area as the land had been under the rule of the Japanese Puppet Regime for many years. Secondly, it was hard to find students who were willing to learn physics. Most of them preferred to apply for faculty of engineering. Most of the students in the department of physics were transferred from other majors, and they had no interest in learning physics. As the sayings went: I don’t want to blame the Heaven and Earth, it’s my fault that I did not apply for a faculty of engineering. I’m not afraid of the Heaven or the Earth, the only thing I’m afraid of is studying in the Northeast People’s University. The only political cadre being responsible for ideological and political work of students in the Department of Physics cooperated with the teachers to conduct in-depth and

careful ideological education for the 500 students. And these efforts were proven to be workable.

Academician Guangya Zhu conducting oral examination for Academician Jia-er Chen

Excellent academic atmosphere and tradition of “careful and responsible teaching, strict requirements for teachers, industrious learning” have been created ever since the establishment of the Department of Physics. Everyone in the Northeast People’s University knew that “students of the Department of Physics are the most diligent ones”. In those years, a film was shown at the auditorium every Saturday evening. However, the students of the Department of Physics were usually studying in their brightly-lit classrooms. Some statistics show that on some Saturday evening, only 7 of the 500 students of the Department of Physics went to see the film, most of the others were studying in their classrooms or their dormitories.

As a result, every student of the Department of Physics was excellent. Among the 22 students graduated in 1954, two have been selected as academicians of Chinese Academy of Sciences and one of the graduates of 1956 has been selected as the academician of Chinese Academy of Sciences.

Today, the staff and students of the College of Physics, JLU are following the enterprising spirit and excellent academic tradition of the Department of Physics, Northeast People’s University, and trying efforts to continue the successful story of the seniors with the motto of “Truth, Innovation, Aspiration”.