Chen Ning Yang was born on September 22, 1922, in Hofei, Anwhei, China, the first of five children of Ke Chuan Yang and Meng Hwa Loh Yang. He is also known as Frank or Franklin.
Yang was brought up in the peaceful and academically inclined atmosphere of the campus of Tsinghua University, just outside of Peiping, China, where his father was a Professor of Mathematics. He received his college education at the National Southwest Associated University in Kunming, China, and completed his B.Sc. degree there in 1942. His M.Sc. degree was received in 1944 from Tsinghua University, which had moved to Kunming during the Sino-Japanese War (1937-1945). He went to the U.S.A. at the end of the war on a Tsinghua University Fellowship, and entered the University of Chicago in January 1946. At Chicago he came under the strong influence of Professor E. Fermi. After receiving his Ph.D. degree in 1948, Yang served for a year at the University of Chicago as an Instructor. He has been associated with the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton, New Jersey, U.S.A., since 1949, where he became a Professor in 1955.
Yang has worked on various subjects in physics, but has his chief interest in two fields: statistical mechanics and symmetry principles. His B.Sc. thesis: “Group Theory and Molecular Spectra”, written under the guidance of Professor Ta-You Wu, his M.Sc. thesis: “Contributions to the Statistical Theory of Order-Disorder Transformations”, written under the guidance of Professor J.S. Wang, and his Ph.D. thesis: “On the Angular Distribution in Nuclear Reactions and Coincidence Measurements”, written under the guidance of Professor E. Teller, were instrumental in introducing him to these fields.
Dr. Yang is a prolific author, his numerous articles appearing in the Bulletin of the American Mathematical Society, The Physical Review, Reviews of Modern Physics, and the Chinese Journal of Physics.
Professor Yang has been elected Fellow of the American Physical Society and the Academia Sinica, and honoured with the Albert Einstein Commemorative Award (1957). The U.S. Junior Chamber of Commerce named him one of the outstanding young men of 1957. He was also awarded an honorary doctorate of the Princeton University, N.J. (1958).
In 1950 Yang married Chih Li Tu and is now the father of three children: Franklin, born 1951; Gilbert, born 1958; and Eulee, born 1961.
Dr. Yang is a quiet, modest, and affable physicist; he met his wife Chih Li Tu while teaching mathematics at her high school in China. He is a hard worker allowing himself very little leisure time.
This autobiography/biography was written at the time of the award and later published in the book series Les Prix Nobel/ Nobel Lectures/The Nobel Prizes. The information is sometimes updated with an addendum submitted by the Laureate.
Their work and discoveries range from how cells adapt to changes in levels of oxygen to our ability to fight global poverty.
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