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Shiing-shen Chern

  • National Medal of Science
  • Mathematics And Computer Science
For developing and extending techniques that led to profound discoveries in geometry and topology.

The curve of a surface can tell us many things about an object’s overall shape. This idea is a key component of “differential geometry,” a field forever changed by Shiing-shen Chern.rnrnA Chinese-American mathematician, Chern created mathematical quantities, dubbed “characteristic classes,” to categorize different types of surfaces – from the curvature of a doughnut to the exterior of a sphere.rnrnThese measurements of twisting and bending in a surface are known today as “Chern classes.”rnrnIn addition to this discovery, Chern also helped many young scholars achieve their dreams, establishing three mathematics institutes during a career spanning 70 years.rnrnHe founded the Mathematical Sciences Research Institute at U.C. Berkeley and the Institute of Mathematics of the Academia Sinica in China.rnrnIn 1984, he started the Nankai Institute of Mathematics at Nankai University in Tianjin. Chern, then in a wheelchair, lived in a house on campus, working up until his death.