Sunday, November 19, 2006

Shing Tung Yau's Titanic Contriution to Chinese Mathematics

Finally, and most seriously of all, the article completely misrepresents the titanic contributions Yau has made to Chinese mathematics, and I feel I must briefly say something about these. I know a little about his work in China because Yau has always been uncomprisingly broad in his vision, and has strove to use his influence and institutions to develop all major fields of mathematical research, including number theory (my own area). I think, without doubt, his greatest contribution to Chinese mathematics has been his remarkable success in training a whole new generation of Chinese differential geometers, who are now at the forefront of research in this highly important field, with its links to physics and cosmology. Secondly, he has created from square one, and now directs, important research institutes in the Chinese University of Hong Kong, the Academy of Science in Beijing, and Zhejiang University in Hangzhou. In each case, he secured through his own efforts the funding for these institutes, built the buildings, and continues to work tirelessly to have excellent research done at them. Thirdly, he has now successfully organized, for the benefit of all Chinese mathematicians around the world, three highly successful International Congresses of Chinese Mathematicians over the last decade in Beijing, Taipei, and Hong Kong. I have had the good fortune to attend all three Congresses, and I am full of admiration of Yau's tireless efforts to get funding for the Congresses and to ensure that all Chinese mathematicians with interesting new research results should be given the opportunity to speak at them. Finally, Yau has been the driving force behind an imaginative scheme to encourage gifted high school students in Hong Kong to get a taste for mathematical research early their lives. This is only a partial list of Yau's work for Chinese mathematics, and I must stress that it lists only those aspects of his which work benefit research in all fields of mathematics. I do not think there is any other living mathematician who can claim to have even a fraction of achievements like these, which are aimed at the good of the whole mathematical community. It is very sad that the article in the New Yorker took no time to mention these great contributions, but wasted much time on gossip and irrelevant stories.
This is an extract from John Coates letter to New Yorker.