Professor Academician Nguyen Van Hieu: A lifetime with a career in scientific research

Prof. Acad. Nguyen Van Hieu (1938-2022) is a typical figure with outstanding contributions to the innovation and development of Vietnam's revolutionary science.

Passionate about scientific research, becoming a professor at the age of 30

GS.VS. Nguyen Van Hieu was born on July 21, 1938 in Cau Do, now in Ha Cau ward, Ha Dong district, Hanoi, in a small family of officials.

Prof. Acad. Nguyen Van Hieu was a manager with a strategic vision, who dedicated his life to the career of scientific research, always struggling to find solutions for the progress of the country's science, he was also a leading scientist in Vietnam, especially in the fields of physics and materials science, likened to a scientific monument of the generation of leading scientists in Vietnam.

In 1956, student Nguyen Van Hieu graduated with a bachelor's degree in Physics with distinction, then became a young cadre, teaching at Hanoi University (now Hanoi National University).

In 1957, two scientists Tsun Dao Lee and Chen Ning Yang made a big step in the theory of asymmetry of the microscopic world, earning them the Nobel Prize in Physics. The above topic was extensively debated in many scientific publications of the Soviet Union (former) in 1958 and was introduced by Professor Ta Quang Buu in a lecture at Hanoi University. Lecturer Nguyen Van Hieu at that time was 20 years old, fascinated by the attraction of this new scientific problem, equipped himself with mathematical knowledge to read and understand more deeply the books of those above scientists.

In 1960, at the age of 22, he was sent to work at the Union Institute for Nuclear Research Dubna, Soviet Union (former). This was considered a world-famous physics research center at that time. At this time, high-energy physics was thriving in the direction of neutrino physics and strong inter-particle interactions. In Dubna, research in both directions was very active. Academician M. A. Markov and Academician B. M. Pontencorvo presided over the neutrino direction. As for the theory to explain strong interactions by Academician N. N. Bogolyubov and Professor A. A. Logunov presided. PhD student Nguyen Van Hieu was under the direct guidance of Prof. Markov and Prof. Logunov.

In April 1963, after two and a half years in Dubna with 12 published research papers on neutrino physics, graduate student Nguyen Van Hieu successfully defended his associate's thesis (now known as doctoral thesis).

This is also the time when the research direction of Prof. Logunov thrives. Dr. Nguyen Van Hieu focused all his time and energy on a new research area with Professor Logunov: Theory of Strong Interactions. “My job is to do it specifically, to prove it, to write it down into a formula, to write it down as a work, which takes a lot of time. But thanks to my preparation in Vietnam, I learned a lot about math problems and basic knowledge, so I only needed to use it at that time, so I did it very quickly. After reading it, Prof. Logunov said, "This is worth doing a doctoral thesis, so write it immediately," Prof. Acad. Nguyen Van Hieu shared. After one year, he completed his doctoral thesis (now a doctoral thesis of science) under the guidance of Prof. Logunov in Dubna. He defended his doctoral thesis with the absolute consent of the Review Board, in 1964.

After successfully defending his doctoral thesis, Dr. Nguyen Van Hieu immediately embarked on a new research direction that had just appeared: high symmetry, unifying the internal symmetry of elementary particles with the symmetry of space-time. The Dubna Institute decided to form a new research group and put him in charge. The team consisted of physicists of many nationalities: Soviet, Hungarian, Romanian and Vietnamese. The Institute also asked him to compose a series of lectures on the newly formed theory to present to experimentalists. These lectures were later rewritten into books, under the title “Lectures on the theory of unita symmetry” and printed by the Antom publishing house in Moscow.

In 1968, at the age of 30, Dr. Nguyen Van Hieu was recognized as a professor of theoretical physics and mathematical physics at the Dubna Institute and Lomonosov University.

In 1969, Prof. Nguyen Van Hieu returned to Vietnam. At this time, the government was advocating to establish a number of scientific research institutes. He was trusted by Prime Minister Pham Van Dong, directly assigned the task of being the Director of the Institute of Physics (one of the first two institutes of Vietnam Academy of Science at that time) and a member of the State Committee of Science and Technology. He was the youngest director in the history of Vietnamese science.

A manager with a heart and a vision of revolutionary science

Prof. Nguyen Van Hieu is the first director of the Institute of Physics and the youngest president in the history of Vietnam Academy of Science and Technology. He and other intellectuals of his time paved the way for basic science in Vietnam. In 1970, at the International Physics Conference in Kiev, Prof. Nguyen Van Hieu had a report that resonated greatly and attracted the attention of the audience when he mentioned the results of his discovery with Academician Logunov. At the end of the conference, Bogolubov said to him privately: “I think you will get a Lenin Prize. He had to return to the Soviet Union immediately for a few more years to continue his studies.” But at that time, for Prof. Nguyen Van Hieu, the most important thing was that the work of the Institute of Physics demanded his presence. Therefore, he stayed in Vietnam to organize research activities of the Institute. However, he still did not leave his own research topics. In parallel with studying the symmetry theory of elementary particles, he collaborated with Logunov (later Vice President of the USSR Academy of Sciences and Rector of Lomonosov University) to study the process of multiple particle generation in the high-energy region. Joining the Logunov - Nguyen Van Hieu research group, there are many other doctors of science. The group's research results were patented by the Soviet Union in 1981.

On April 30, 1975, the South was completely liberated. In early May 1975, Prof. Acad. Nguyen Van Hieu was elected a member of the National Assembly and accompanied comrade Le Duan, First Secretary of the Party Central Committee, to visit the southern provinces. On July 4, 1975, the Central Bureau of South Vietnam issued a decision to establish the Southern Institute of Science and Technology under the Provisional Revolutionary Government of South Vietnam and appointed Prof. Acad. Nguyen Van Hieu as Director. With a very small team of scientists, he began to build a new establishment in the South. June 1976, Prof. Acad. Nguyen Van Hieu returned to the North to assume the position of Deputy Director of the Vietnam Academy of Sciences. In 1983, he became the President. Since 1993, he has been the Director of the National Center for Natural Science and Technology and the Director of the Institute of Materials Science. During these years, in addition to continuing his in-depth research on solid-state physics, he also made a special contribution to organizing the introduction of yellow-flowered sage into mass planting in the northern mountainous region, creating a source of natural resources raw materials for industrial-scale production of anti-malarial medicine, serving people in remote and isolated areas and ethnic minorities.

As a person who matured with the development of science and education in Vietnam, Prof. Acad. Nguyen Van Hieu was also a person particularly interested in the cause of education and training of the young generation. Many people in the education industry have known about his significant contributions when he was still a member of the National Assembly. Prof. Acad. Nguyen Van Hieu was formerly an Alternate Member of the Central Committee of the Party, term V, a former member of the Central Committee of the Party, courses VI, VII, VIII and a member of the National Assembly for many terms. He was also one of the pioneers in recognizing the need for wage reform for the education sector. Prof. Acad. Nguyen Van Hieu was the former founding rector of the University of Technology (Vietnam National University, Hanoi).

Prof. Acad. Nguyen Van Hieu was one of the Vietnamese scientists who considered science a lifelong career. His number of scientific works was over 200 works, spanning many fields such as: weak interactions and symmetry of elementary particles; analytic theory of strong interactions and field theory; method of quantum field theory in solid state physics. Most of his works were published in prestigious international journals. During his lifetime, at the age of 70, Prof. Acad. Nguyen Van Hieu was still full of enthusiasm for many big plans and transmitted his enthusiasm to a new generation of scientists who enthusiastically study and research to dominate a new field of science and technology: science and nanotechnology.

Aware of the important role of Science and Technology Associations in the mission of gathering, uniting and promoting the brains of domestic and foreign intellectuals to serve the cause of innovation and national construction, Prof. Acad. Nguyen Van Hieu actively participated in the activities of organizations and associations as a member of the Presidium of the Central Council of the Vietnam Union of Science and Technology Associations, Chairman of the Vietnam Physics Association. He worked hard until the end of his life, lived a full life with a scientific career, and will forever be a shining example of revolutionary science.

In 1982, Prof. Nguyen Van Hieu was elected as a member of the Academy of Sciences of the Soviet Union (now Academy of Sciences of the Russian Federation).

In 1984, Prof. Nguyen Van Hieu was elected as an Academician of the Third World Academy of Sciences, an Academician of the Czech Academy of Sciences.

In 1986, Prof. Acad. Nguyen Van Hieu was awarded the Lenin Prize for Science and Technology by the Soviet Union.

In 1996, Prof. Acad. Nguyen Van Hieu was awarded the Ho Chi Minh Prize by the State of Vietnam for a collection of research works that he had carried out over the previous years.

In 2009, Prof. Acad. Nguyen Van Hieu was awarded the First-Class Independence Medal.

Translated by Phuong Ha
Link to Vietnamese version

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