High energy physics (HEP) is the most frontier subject on the study of the constituents of matter and the law governing their interactions. It plays an important role in the study on the origin and evolution of the universe. Its important role also applies to there search on the formation and evolution of celestial body. HEP experiments have given great impetus to the development of accelerator technologies that have evolved into a new-emerging industry with strategic importance and wide applications.  

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Zhang Wenyu

In the 1920’s, a number of Chinese youngsters cherishing the lofty ideal of “saving the nation and the people” went abroad for study. Upon return to poor and backward China with great enthusiasm, they were very disappointed to find that they could not dedicate themselves in the service of their motherland. In old China, HEP research was almost blank. During the war of resistance against Japan, Dr. Zhang Wenyu (Chang Wen-yu) and Dr. Zhao Zhongyao (Chao Chong-yao) returned to their motherland respectively from University of Cambridge, Britain and California Institute of Technology, USA.  Having made outstanding achievements in high energy physics during their stay abroad, they were eager to build an electrostatic accelerator in China. With the national crisis brought on by Japanese aggressors, they could not but give up this idea and resume their study abroad two years later. On hearing the sep-up of New China, all Chinese living abroad were beside themselves with joy, and many of them returned home in succession with deep affection for their motherland.

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Zhao Zhongyao

By breaking through all kinds of obstructions, Zhao returned to China in November 1950. He brought along with him all the accelerator components and the nuclear experimental facilities he had ordered to fabricate and purchased in the U.S. as a result of several years’ arduous work. With these components, the first proton electrostatic accelerator was accomplished under his leadership. Thus the accelerator technology had made the first step forward in our country. In addition, high tech industries were developed in the fields of vacuum, high voltage, ion source, etc. Later on, based on the electrostatic accelerator, nuclear physics laboratory was established. The first nuclear physics experiments using accelerator were carried out. And a number of young and middle-aged core scientists and engineers grew up. High energy physics research calls for advanced accelerators. It has been the long-cherished dream of several generations of Chinese scientists to build a  base for HEP research in China. 

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the first proton electrostatic accelerator built in China

Qian Sanqiang

In 1956 Professor Zhang Wenyu returned to his long-parted motherland and was appointed deputy director of the Institute of Atomic Energy, helping Professor Qian Sanqiang to direct the research on elementary particles. He was deeply impressed by the importance attached to the development of science by the Chinese government.   

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He Zehui

Professor He Zehui (Ho Zh Wei), member of the Chinese Academy of Sciences returned to China from Technical University of Berlin with a degree of Dr.Ing in 1948. She had served as deputy director of the Institute of Modern Physics, the Institute of Atomic Energy and the Institute of High Energy Physics (IHEP). 

Professor Zhu Hongyuan, member of the Chinese Academy of Sciences and deputy director of IHEP returned to China from University of Manchester with a Ph.D degree in the 50’s. Professor Xiao Jian, member of the Chinese Academy of Sciences returned to China in the 50’s by giving up the opportunity to soon get his Ph.D degree at California Institute of Technology.

Professor Xie Jialin, member of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, project director  of the Beijing Electron Positron Collider and deputy director of IHEP returned home from Stanford University, USA with Ph.D degree in 1955. The construction of an accelerator with a higher energy was specified in the National Twelve-Year Plan for the Development of China’s Science (1956 – 1967). 

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  layout of BEPC

In order to develop high energy physics in China, the Chinese government began from 1956 to send some experts to the Joint Institute for Nuclear Research at Dubna of the former Soviet Union to do field work and carry out the preliminary design of accelerators. And then many students were sent to the former Soviet Union to learn the technologies of how to build accelerators and detectors. The experimental group led by Professor Wang Ganchang discovered the anti-sigma minus hyperon. 

Wang Ganchang in his study

After these scientists had returned home, they made outstanding contributions to the development of China’s nuclear physics and high energy physics, and A-bomb and H-bomb in particular. In the 1970’s, only the United States and Europe had high energy accelerators. In 1972, Professor Zhang Wenyu and the other 17 scientists wrote to Premier Zhou Enlai, requesting the government to build our own accelerator in China so as to carry on high energy physics research.  In less than two weeks’ time, Premier Zhou’s directive was received. He pointed out, “This issue should not be delayed any longer. The Chinese Academy of Sciences must pay close attention to basic science and theoretical study and at the same time, combine the theoretical study and scientific experiment. The research on high energy physics and pre-fabrication of high energy accelerator should be one of the main projects to which CAS is to attach great importance.” 

As an important step to implement Premier Zhou’s directive, the Institute of High Energy Physics was founded with Professor Zhang Wenyu appointed its first director. Many delegations led by Professor Zhang went abroad, investigating and studying the latest development of high energy physics in the world and in this way, established the relationship of international cooperation. When the cultural revolution was over, the international exchange in high energy physics became the window of reform and opening to the outside world. In September 1977 when Comrade Deng Xiaoping met with Professor S. C. C. Ting, he proposed that high energy physicists from the Chinese Academy of Sciences be sent to join the experimental group led by Professor Ting at DESY in Hamburg. In January 1978, the first group of Chinese physicists arrived there. Since then, large numbers of students and visiting scholars have been sent abroad for advanced study.


Deng Xiaoping meets with Prof.S.C.C.Ting in 1977

In 1977, the Chinese government approved the proposed project of 50GeV proton synchrotron that was to be completed in 10 years according to schedule. It was designated as “87 Project”. However, it was cancelled in 1982 because of the readjustment of the national economy. To ensure that the thread of high energy physics research would not break, the Chinese government gave the green light to the construction of a 2.2 GeV electron positron collider, called “the Beijing Electron Positron Collider”. 

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    Deng Xiaoping personally lays the foundation stone for BEPC on October 7, 1984

On October 7, 1984 Comrade Deng Xiaoping personally laid the foundation for it. Based on the absorption of the world advanced technologies, about 100,000 scientific and technological personnel from the Chinese Academy of Sciences, several hundred factories, research institutions and universities successfully accomplished the BEPC with the world advanced level in only four years.  

In the course of the construction, they gave full play to the wisdom and creativeness of the Chinese nation and struggled hard in the painstaking designing, development, installation and commissioning of the BEPC. This is another outstanding scientific and technological achievement following the successful development of A-bomb and H-bomb and the launching of the man-made satellite. It received high appraisal from the international community of high energy physics.

The successful completion of the BEPC symbolizes that the dream of building our own experimental base for high energy physics has become true. Thus IHEP has become one of the 8 high energy physics research centers in the world. This is an embodiment of the outstanding contributions made by the old generation of the returned students like Zhang Wenyu, Zhao Zhongyao, Xie Jialin, etc. And it is also attributed to the great contributions made by many returned visiting scholars like Fang Shouxian, Ye Minghan, Xian Dingchang, Chen Senyu, etc. It is precisely because of the concerted efforts made by several generations of scientists for the development of high energy physics in China that it has made such important progress and success. During the 10 post BEPC-completion years, Chinese scientists had made scientific achievements one after another with this machine. Particular mention should be made of the  τ charm physics experiment, the precision measurement of the τ lepton mass and the experimental study of (2s) decay. The first experiment is of the most advanced international level and the last two were awarded the Second National Prize of Natural Science.

All these made possible for China’s high energy physics research to make swift development and have a place in the world. In the mid 80’s, a number of students going abroad for advanced study after the cultural revolution returned home in succession. They have become academic bellwethers in many fields and made important contributions in scoring important physics results at the Beijing Spectrometer (BES), the building and popularization of international internet, the development of the large magnet of alpha spectrometer, etc.  

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Among the current IHEP directors, two are returned students who came back in the 80’s, with Professor Chen Hesheng, director of IHEP being from MIT with a Ph.D degree and deputy director Li Weiguo from University of Illinois with a Ph.D degree. It can be said that the development of high energy physics in China is inseparable from the returned students. The strategic policy of “rejuvenating China with science and education” formulated by the Party central committee has increased the investment in science and technology to a great extent.

 “The Knowledge Innovation Project” and “the Hundred Talents Program” implemented by the Chinese Academy of Sciences have attracted more and more students studying abroad to work at IHEP. They have become the force at the core in various fields of high energy physics research, and many of them are the academic bellwethers of the disciplines in such frontier fields as BES, cosmic ray and particle astrophysics, theoretical physics, synchrotron radiation, nuclear analytical techniques, important upgrade of the BEPC, high power proton accelerator, etc. Some of them have achieved important results like Zhao Zhengguo who undertook and accomplished the precision measurement of R value in 2-5 GeV with BES. The State Science and Technology Leading Group has approved in principle the report by CAS concerning the goals for the development of high energy physics and advanced accelerators in China. 

According to this report, the BEPC will be thoroughly upgraded with the luminosity greatly improved. Consequently our country will continue to have the best high energy physics experimental facility in this energy region so that we can maintain the leading position in the study of τcharm physics in the world for a considerable long period of time and thus lay a foundation for the important innovative results. High energy physics in China again faces a historical opportunity for important development. Returned students are able to develop their ability to the full.

Institute of High Energy Physics    30/10/02