Chen Ning Yang

(b. 1922)

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(1922– )

Chinese-born US physicist who, with Tsun-Dao Lee, was awarded the 1957 Nobel Prize for Physics for their discovery that parity is not conserved in the weak interaction.

The son of a mathematician, Yang was educated at the National Southwest Associated University, Yunnan, where he first met his future collaborator Lee. At the end of World War II, Yang moved to the USA and gained his PhD from the University of Chicago in 1948. After teaching for a year at Chicago, Yang joined the staff of the Institute of Advanced Studies at Princeton, remaining there until his appointment in 1966 as the Einstein Professor of Physics at the State University of New York.

In 1956 Yang, in collaboration with Lee, published a paper proposing that the conservation of parity does not apply in the weak interaction. Experiments they suggested were performed shortly afterwards at Columbia and confirmed their proposal. Despite the publication of thirty-five joint papers, the friendship between Yang and Lee did not long survive the Nobel award. The last joint paper appeared in 1962 and thereafter they parted company for good. Yang has claimed that the original idea of the violation of parity was his alone and that ‘Lee at first resisted the idea.’ This version of the events has been disputed by Lee.

Subjects: Contemporary History (Post 1945) — Science and Mathematics.

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