Person: Wu, Wen-Tsun
Wen-Tsun Wu was a Chinese mathematician who worked in topology and computer mathematics.
Mathematical Profile (Excerpt):
- The University was temporarily relocated to the French Concession in Shanghai and Wu continued his studies of mathematics, graduating with his first degree in 1940.
- However, the war was still gripping China at this time, and the University was dispersed to various places in central China, so Wu could not continue his studies and undertake research as he would have wished.
- Chiao-Tung University was re-established as a Temporary University in Shanghai after the war, and Wu was appointed as an assistant in 1945 which allowed him to restart his mathematical studies.
- Wu was admitted as a research student at the Institute of Mathematics and, also in 1946, took the examinations to compete for a scholarship to study abroad.
- Wu's first publication in 1947 was Note sur les produits essentiels symétriques des espaces topologiques Ⓣ(Note on symmetric essential products of topological spaces).
- The following year saw a wealth of papers from Wu: On the product of sphere bundles and the duality theorem modulo two; Sur l'existence d'un champ d'éléments de contact ou d'une structure complexe sur une sphère Ⓣ(On the existence of a field of contact elements or a complex structure on a sphere); Sur les classes caractéristiques d'un espace fibré en sphères Ⓣ(On the characteristic classes of a spherical fiber space); Sur le second obstacle d'un champ d'éléments de contact dans une structure fibrée sphérique Ⓣ(On the second obstacle of a field of contact elements in a spherical fiber structure); and Sur la structure presque complexe d'une variété différentiable réelle de dimension 4 Ⓣ(On the almost complex structure of a real differentiable variety of dimension 4).
- Wu was awarded his doctorate in 1949 for his thesis Sur les classes caractéristiques des structures fibrées sphériques Ⓣ(On the characteristic classes of spherical fiber structures) in which he made a detailed study of characteristic classes via Grassmannian varieties.
- Following the award of his doctorate, Wu went to Paris where he studied with Henri Cartan.
- Thom, a student of Cartan's, had held a CNRS research post at Strasbourg while Wu was studying there and they had got to know each other at this time and exchanged mathematical ideas, beginning a good collaboration.
- While working in Paris during the early months of 1950, Thom discovered the topological invariance of Stiefel-Whitney classes, while Wu discovered a set of invariants and formulas, now called the Wu classes and Wu formulas, which have also proved important.
- In 1951 Wu returned to China where he was appointed to Peking University, then two years later he was appointed as a researcher in the Academia Sinica.
- Wu was sent to work in a factory manufacturing computers.
- Although at first sight the two ideas of computer proof and ancient Chinese mathematics appear to be at the opposite ends of the spectrum, Wu saw that the philosophy behind ancient Chinese mathematics was the development of algorithms rather than the axiomatic abstract approach begun by the ancient Greeks and developed in the West.
- In 1977 Wu introduced a new way of studying geometry on a computer.
- (It is worth noting that Ritt's approach was based on earlier ideas of van der Waerden.) With his new ideas Wu could take a problem in elementary geometry and transform it into an algebraic question about polynomials.
- Computers were able to answer questions about polynomials so Wu had a powerful method of proving geometric theorems on a computer.
- It is in Chapter 4 that Wu explains how to translate geometrical problems into polynomial equations.
- In 2000 Wu published Mathematics mechanization : Mechanical geometry theorem-proving, mechanical geometry problem-solving and polynomial equations-solving.
- Wu extended his mechanization interest, combining it with his original interest in topology to produce computational techniques to handle rational homotopy theory.
- Recognition for Wu's achievements was quick.
- In 2008 Selected works of Wen-Tsun Wu was published.
Born 12 May 1919, Shanghai, China. Died 7 May 2017, Beijing, China.
View full biography at MacTutor
Tags relevant for this person:
Origin China, Prize Shaw
Adapted from other CC BY-SA 4.0 Sources:
- O’Connor, John J; Robertson, Edmund F: MacTutor History of Mathematics Archive