Deng Jiaxian was born in Huining, Anhui province on June 25, 1924. He entered the Physics Department of the Southwest Associated University in 1941. After graduation in 1945, he taught successively in Wenzheng Middle School and Peiwen Middle School of Kunming and the Physics Department of Peking University.
Deng Jiaxian (second from right) and his wife Xu Luxi in this undated file photo. [Photo/Xinhua]
In 1948, Deng was admitted to the Graduate School of Purdue University in the United States and received a doctorate in physics two years later. Nine days after he got his doctoral degree, he stepped onto the ship back to China and became a research fellow of Institute of Modern Physics in Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) under the leadership of Qian Sanqiang. He started his creative nuclear theoretical research in cooperation with Yu Min.
In October 1958, together with many other scientists, Deng was assigned to the research work of atomic bombs. At first, they were prepared to receive training by experts from the former Soviet Union. Soon after, however, the Soviet Union tore up its agreement with China and withdrew its experts. Deng had to lead the team of 28 members at an average age of 23 to march toward the mysterious atomic kingdom.
As director of the Theoretical Department of the Nuclear Weapon Research Institute and principal of China's atomic bomb design, he set up an Atom Theory Illiteracy Elimination Class, giving lessons himself and organizing people to translate and study relevant foreign language materials. At the same time, he never gave up his thinking on the main direction of atomic bomb development. Following the successful test of the atomic bomb, Deng led his team to join the research group led by Yu Min in 1965 and immediately started design of the hydrogen bomb. Within no more than one year, the "Deng-Yu Project" was submitted, which greatly accelerated China's hydrogen bomb development leading to success.
Deng endured the hardships of the desert for 10 years before he got married. He was always the first to take the risk. Since the first nuclear experiment, he always stood in the front line. In an experiment in 1979, a bomb fell directly down to the ground because of a crack in the parachute. Fearing devastating aftereffects, he rushed to the spot, took the bomb fragments in his hand and examined them carefully. Unfortunately, this led to radiation sickness. He continued to work in spite of illness until 1985 when he was unable to avoid being hospitalized. On his sickbed, he said calmly: "I knew this day will come, but hadn't expected it so soon."
After Deng passed away, his bosom friend Chen-Ning Yang, world famous physicist and Nobel laureate, wrote an article in mourning. "Deng Jiaxian was the founder and promoter of China's nuclear weapon cause. He was worthy of the reputation of being the Founding Father of China's A-Bomb and H-Bomb, as coined by General Zhang Aiping…Deng Jiaxian was the most dedicated son of China who was nurtured in thousands of years' traditional Chinese culture."