Shing-Tung Yau is born in Shantou, China. After he studied mathematics at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, he went to the University of California, Berkeley in 1969. At the age of 22, Yau was awarded the Ph.D. degree under the supervision of Shiing-Shen Chern. After a year as a member of the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton, and two years at the State University of New York at Stony Brook, he went to Stanford University. Since 1987, he has been a Professor of Mathematics at Harvard University. Since 2013, he is also appointed a Professor of Physics at Harvard.
Yau's work is in geometry in the broadest sense. He was the first person to combine differential geometry and analysis, and used their interaction to solve longstanding problems in both subjects. Yau's work opened up new directions, set foundations and changed people's perspectives towards mathematics and their applications in physics and computer science. For example, his proof of the positive energy theorem in general relativity demonstrated—sixty years after its discovery—that Einstein's theory is consistent and stable. His proof of the Calabi conjecture gave solutions of multiple well-known open problems in algebraic geometry and also allowed physicists to show that string theory is a viable candidate for a unified theory of nature. Calabi–Yau manifolds are among the ‘standard toolkit’ for string theorists today.
Professor Yau also spends an enormous amount of energy to train young mathematicians at every level. For example, he has supervised over sixty-six Ph. D. students, and is deeply involving in reaching out to the general public about the role of mathematics in the modern society. Professor Yau has been directors of the Institute of Mathematical Sciences at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, the Morningside Center of Mathematics of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, and Center of Mathematical Sciences in Zhejiang University. In December 2009, Shing-Tung Yau was invited to serve as the inaugural director of the Mathematical Sciences Center at Tsinghua University.
Prizes and Awards
- 1981, Oswald Veblen Prize
- 1982, Fields Medal
- 1984, MacArthur Fellow
- 1994, Crafoord Prize
- 1997, United States National Medal of Science
- 2003, China International Scientific and Technological Cooperation Award
- 2010, Wolf Prize in Mathematics