Person: Wang, Hsien Chung
Hsien Chung Wang was a Chinese-born American mathematician who worked in differential geometry, Lie groups and algebraic topology.
Mathematical Profile (Excerpt):
- His original intention was to take a degree in physics so he began his studies taking courses which would lead to this degree.
- On 7 July 1937 Japanese and Chinese troops clashed near Peking.
- In late July further fighting broke out and the Japanese quickly captured Peking and Tientsin.
- Tsing Hua University was moved to Southwest China where it was amalgamated with Nankai and Peking universities.
- Wang had to journey to the new site of his university and begin his studies again.
- Wang graduated in 1941 and began to study under S S Chern.
- He was awarded a master's degree in 1944 and began teaching in a school.
- However, after one year, he was awarded a British Council Scholarship to continue his studies in England.
- After a while at Sheffield he studied under Newman at Manchester and received a Ph.D. in 1948.
- On his return to China, Wang took up a research post at the Chinese National Academy of Sciences.
- Between early November 1948 and early January 1949 the Communists and Nationalists fought for control.
- The Chinese National Academy of Sciences was set up on Taiwan and Wang followed the Academy there.
- From 1949 Wang lived in the United States.
- This was not an easy time to obtain a mathematics post in the United States and Wang, although he had an impressive reputation as a mathematician by this time, could only manage a succession of temporary posts.
- First he taught at Louisiana State, then for two years at Baton Rouge before he spent his first year at Princeton in 1951-52.
- Again he held temporary posts, this time for two years at Alabama Polytechnic, then 1954-55 at Princeton again, 1955-57 at the University of Washington in Seattle followed by a time at Columbia in New York.
- The year 1957 saw Wang receive an offer of a permanent post for the first time.
- This was at Northwestern University where he remained, having further spells at Princeton during this time, until 1966 when he was appointed to Cornell.
- Wang worked on algebraic topology and discovered the 'Wang sequence', an exact sequence involving homology groups associated with fibre bundles over spheres.
- These discoveries were made while he worked with Newman in Manchester.
- Wang also solved, at that time, an important open problem in determining the closed subgroups of maximal rank in a compact Lie group.
- Wang's most important work was on discrete subgroups of Lie groups, a topic on which he continued to work.
- He published Two-point homogeneous spaces in 1952 which dealt with a homogeneous space of a compact Lie group.
- His teaching and other mathematical and administrative activities continued unabated, however, and he played an important role in the department at Cornell.
- He was very much liked there, as everywhere, for his modesty, generosity, kindness and curtsey.
- He was a fine teacher and lecturer.
- He enjoyed excellent health until he was suddenly stricken with leukaemia in June 1978.
- He succumbed within weeks, to be survived for only a few months by his wife.
Born 18 April 1918, Peking (now Beijing), China. Died 25 June 1978, New York, USA.
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Thank you to the contributors under CC BY-SA 4.0!
Adapted from other CC BY-SA 4.0 Sources:
- O’Connor, John J; Robertson, Edmund F: MacTutor History of Mathematics Archive