Professor Chang-Shou Lin, National Taiwan University, responds to the New Yorker article
October, 2006Dear Mr. Cooper:
I am writing to you in regards to the article "Manifold Destiny" in the New Yorker. It really surprised me that such a prestigious magazine as the New Yorker whould publish this article. Obviously, every respect of professor Yau is so unfairly treated by the authors. The paragraphs about Yau are based on gossip and irrelevant stories. It is also clear to me that it distorts many interviewees' statements on purpose. I felt greatly horrified when I saw the cartoon which shows Yau gripping the Medal from Professor Perelman. It is so malevolent that I felt very upset for many days.
I have known professor Yau for more than twenty years. He is indeed a completely honest and honorable man, and, as remarked by my adviser Professor L. Nirenberg in his letter, Yau is a person with great passion for mathematics. It has almost become a legend that he organizes seminars three days a week for his students and colleagues. Thee seminars started from his Stanford years, and keep on going in the Institute of Advanced Study, San Diego, and Harvard. By saying "...Determined to retain controls over his field, Yau push his students to tack big problems. At Harvard, ...." (see the article), this is not only inaccurate, but also malicious with bad intention. Those statements completely pervert Yau's passion and devotion to mathematics, and derogate Yau's honor as well.
As the only person of Chinese descent who won the Fields Medal in the last 20+ years, Yau is naturally considered as the only heir of Professor S. S. Chern. This was never claimed by Yau himself. But I can confidently say all other Chinese mathematicians do think so. The reason why I want to point this out is to let you know how ridiculous this article is in this regard.
Yau has done a lot to promote the mathematics development in China, Hong-Kong and Taiwan. He visited Taiwan many times including one whole academic year, 1992–93. Thereupon, professor Yau conducted his legendary seminar each week in Tsing-Hwa University. In Taiwan, he kept on advising the Taiwan Government and University presidents to allocate more funds for mathematics research, and helped us to establish mathematics research centers, such as National Center for Theoretical Sciences (NCTS) and the Taida Institute of Mathematical Sciences (TIMS). Since I was the director of NCTS and am now the director of TIMS, I can ensure you that Professor Yau is always happy to help as an adviser to centers. But, he never interferes with any operation of both centers. Yau's generosity is the true image of him — definitely not the one malignantly portrayed inside the New Yorker article.
Professor of Mathematics
National Taiwan University