Trinh Xuan Thuan, an astrophysicist who transmits passion to young Vietnamese

(VOVworld) – Graduating from Jean-Jacques Rousseau School in Sai Gon (former name of Ho Chi Minh city), the then 18-year-old Trinh Xuan Thuan decided to pursue the study of natural science despite his aptitude for literature. In 1966, Thuan went to study at Princeton University in the US and completed his Ph.D in astrophysics. After 40 years of universe research in the US, Professor Trinh Xuan Thuan is one of the few Vietnamese who working in this field. Lan Anh reports.

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Professor Trinh Xuan Thuan (Photo: VOV)

Professor Trinh Xuan Thuan was born in 1948 in Hanoi. While studying at Jean-Jacques Rousseau high school in Sai Gon, Thuan came to admire Albert Einstein. At that time, astronomy was still new to Vietnam, and there was very little work being done in this field. Trinh Xuan Thuan recalled the early days when he started his study and research in astrophysics: “At first, I planned to study physics. At Caltech University in the US, I found the world’s biggest astronomy telescope, the one which can see the farthest into the universe. A number of great events happened at that time, such as research on the Big Bang theory and Neil Amstrong becoming the first man to walk on the moon in 1969. Those things made me really want to become an astrophysicist”.

In 40 years of studying the universe in the US and France, Professor Thuan had the opportunity to work at some of the world’s top science research centers the California Institute of Technology, Princeton University, and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). He studied and worked with scores of physicists who won Nobel prizes for physics and inspired his creativity. In 2004, Thuan discovered the youngest known galaxy in the universe, which was a great contribution to universe science. Thuan received the prestigious Grand Prix Moron from the French Academy in 2007, the Cino del Duca prize, and the Louis Pauwels prize in 2012. Thuan was the recipient of UNESCO’s Kalinga Prize in 2009 for his work in popularizing science. Thuan said of his achievements: “I am a Vietnamese. I am proud to stand side by side with other foreigners. The thought that I am a Vietnamese gave me more power and determination to develop in my science career”.

Professor Trinh Xuan Thuan has written many books to popularize science. He  has written more than 20 science books in French, 10 of which were translated into Vietnamese such as “Infinity in the palm of the hand”, “Quantum and Lotus”, and “Facing the Giants”. Hoang Thanh Thuy, head of the Department of Science Books at Kim Dong Publishing House, has worked with Professor Trinh Xuan Thuan: “I have always had a special feeling working with him. Despite being a great scientist, Professor Thuan is very friendly and modest. He always encourages us in our work”. 

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Professor Trinh Xuan Thuan at a book launching ceremony in Kim Dong Publishing House (Photo: VOV)

Many Vietnamese have read books by Professor Trinh Xuan Thuan to explore the mystery of the universe. Even when discussing difficult topics in astronomy, Thuan’s books are exciting and understandable, conveying the beauty of the universe while revealing an uncommon literary talent. Pham Vu Loc is a member of the Hanoi Amateur Astronomy Society: “Books by Professor Trinh Xuan Thuan have really inspired young people and sparked their passion for this field. The young need a model to follow. As astronomy is still relatively new to Vietnam, Professor Thuan is a great inspiration for our careers”.

Professor Trinh Xuan Thuan was born in Dong Anh district, Hanoi. Despite spending most of his life abroad, he still turns his heart to and contributes to his homeland. Thuan says he returns to Vietnam to inspire young people interested in scientific research to put Vietnam’s science on a par with the rest of the world.