Prof. Louis Nirenberg, Courant institute
of Mathematical Sciences, New York University,
responds to the New Yorker article
Dear Mr. Cooper:
I am writing to you in regard to the New Yorker article of August 28. I was dismayed by the article's treatment of S. T. Yau.
I have known Yau since he received his Ph.D at Berkeley, and have followed his work with enormous interest and admiration — I can't keep up with all of it, especially his work connected with Physics.
Yau is an ambitious person but his primary interest is the development of Science. His devotion to it and to the people working in it can hardly be matched. Throughout his research, and that of his many students — and his famous seminar which meets several times a week for hours — he has had enormous influence on current developments in many fields of Mathematics.
In all the years I have known him I have found him to be completely honest and honorable.
When Perelman's papers appeared, I believe that Yau felt that the proofs needed further clarification, with all details spelled out. He encouraged Zhu and Cao to work through them. What they have done is extremely useful. But after Hamilton, the primary credit goes to Perelman — as Hamilton and Yau acknowledge.
In my opinion, the Clay Prize should be offered jointly to Hamilton and Perelman.
The description of Yau's behavior in the New Yorker article does not jibe with my knowledge of him. Its nasty tone is deplorable.
You may share this letter with anyone you wish.
Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences
New York University