A child prodigy, he finished elementary school in a single year, before spending another year and a half in junior high school. He received the Tan Kah Kee scholarship for four years and graduated from Xiamen University in 1934 with a degree in chemistry.
He served as President of the Chinese Academy of Sciences and Vice President of Fuzhou University, as well as high-ranking political positions including Chairman of the Chinese Peasants' and Workers' Democratic Party, Vice Chairman of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), and Vice Chairman of the National People's Congress. Before turning 13, he passed the entrance examination to a preparatory class for Xiamen University. He then taught at the university for three years.
In 1937, Lu passed a competitive examination and received a national postgraduate fellowship to study at University College London, where he studied under Samuel Sugden and obtained a Ph.D. at the age of 24. With the recommendation of Sugden, he was admitted to the California Institute of Technology in 1939, and studied structural chemistry under Linus Pauling, the future Nobel laureate. In 1944, he worked at the Maryland Research Laboratory of the US National Defense Research Committee (NDRC).
His research in the area of combustion and explosion earned him an R&D prize from the NDRC. After the end of World War II, Lu turned down numerous employment opportunities in the United States, and returned to war-torn China in the winter of 1945. He was appointed professor and dean of the Chemistry Department at Xiamen University. From 1960 to 1981, Lu was director of the Fujian Institute of Research in Structural Chemistry, and vice president of Fuzhou University.
He served as President of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) from 1981 to 1988, and as a special advisor to the CAS afterwards. He was also Vice President of the Third World Academy of Sciences. His political positions include Chairman of the Chinese Peasants' and Workers' Democratic Party (1988–97, Honorary Chairman afterwards), Vice Chairman of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (1988–93 and 1998–2003), and Vice Chairman of the National People's Congress (1993–98).
Lu Jiaxi died on 4 June 2001. On 6 April 2002, a bronze statue of him was erected in front of the Chemistry Department of Xiamen University. Lu Jiaxi's research focus was on physical, structural, nuclear, and materials chemistry.
He proposed a structural model of the center of nitrogenase, a key enzyme used in biological nitrogen fixation, and studied the relationship between chemical structure and performance.
[Chinese Academy of Sciences]
His work is recognized internationally, and he was elected as a member of the European Academy of Sciences and Arts and of the Royal Academies for Science and the Arts of Belgium.