Chen Ning Yang


Chen Ning Yang was born on September 22, 1922, in Hofei, Anhwei, China. After reading the autobiography of Benjamin Franklin, he was inspired and adopted "Franklin' as his first name. In 1929, his family moved to Peiping, but in later years they had to move again to stay out of the way of the Japanese invaders. After obtaining his bachelor's degree in 1942 at National Southwest University in Kunming, he entered Tsinghua University. In 1944, he completed his master's degree and taught at a Chinese high school. He completed his doctorate at the University of Chicago in 1946. In 1949, Yang went to the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey, and he became one of the very small number of professors on appointed Albert Einstein professor of physics and director of the Institute of Theoretical Physics at the State University of New York at Stony Brook.

Chen Ning Yang shared the Nobel Prize for Physics with Tsung Dao Lee in 1957. Yang and Tsung Dao Lee made a fundamental theoretical breakthrough of non-conservation of parity. Because of the their work, all science theories based on parity had to be reexamined. They were the first scientists of Chinese birth to win a Nobel Prize. They were also among the youngest men ever to receive a Nobel award. They obtained the shortest time interval ever between a discovery and the award of the Nobel Prize.

Yang overturned Paul Ad6en Dirac's deceptively natural assumption that the best know elementary particle possessed no feature, which would permit a distinction between right and left. Yang's revision of the question of right and left symmetry in element particle reactions began with the discovery of a new kind of particle, called a meson. He explained that symmetry laws generate the law of conservation. The law of right-left symmetry contributed to the formulation of the law of conservation of parity in 1924. Eventually, this law of conservation was extended to other aspect of physics. After the discovery of a fundamental problem with the law of parity, Yang and Lee wrote a paper titled "Question of Parity Conservation in Weak Interactions." In this paper, they suggested a series of experiments that would test their hypothesis that there were certain decay paths in weak particle interactions that were preferred and that remained constant despite the reversal of other relevant parameters. They also reexamined the consequences of removing the parity law for radioactive disintegration of nuclei and particles.

Yang married Chih Li Tu. She was a former student of his in China. They had two sons and one daughter together. He became and American citizen in 1964. Because Yang was born in China and was an exceptional scientist who won the Nobel Prize, the Communist Chines Embassy in Sweden make some effort to return Yang back to China. However, he refused to go back. In his acceptance speech, Yang left no doubt that he would remain in the United States because of his devotion to modern science, he believed, is primarily of western origin.




Magill, Frank N. "Yang, Cheri Ning" The Nobel Prize Winner (Vol.2, 193 8-1967). California: Salem Press, ©1989.

Simon Rigden, John S. "Yang, Chen Ning." Magmillan Encyclopedia of Physics (Vol.4, p.772- 280). New York: & Schuster, ©1996.


Judy My Wong


Back to HOME