Harvard math Professor Emeritus Shing-Tung Yau against a green blackboard covered in mathematical formulas.

Harvard Professor Emeritus Shing-Tung Yau Awarded 2023 Shaw Prize

At a press conference in Hong Kong earlier this week, the Shaw Prize Foundation awarded the 2023 Shaw Prize in Mathematical Sciences in equal shares to Vladimir Drinfeld, Harry Pratt Judson Distinguished Service Professor of Mathematics at the University of Chicago, and Shint-Tung Yau, Director of Yau Mathematical Sciences Center at Tsinghua University and Professor Emeritus at Harvard University. The two laureates were chosen for their contributions related to mathematical physics, arithmetic and differential geometry, and to Kähler geometry.

Yau was an active member of Harvard’s Department of Mathematics for 35 years before becoming professor emeritus in 2022. He has been a leader in the fields of mathematics and physics since the early years of his academic career, with a reputation as a thinker of unrivaled technical power. A press release by the Mathematical Sciences Selection Committee highlighted the systematically partial differential equation methods in differential geometry that Yau developed. With these, he solved the Calabi conjecture, the existence of Hermitian Yang-Mills connections alongside Karel Uhlenbeck, and the positive mass conjecture with Richard Schoen. Yau introduced geometric methods to important problems in general relativity, which led to Shoen-Yau’s black hole existence theorem and to an intrinsic definition of quasi-local mass in general relativity.

Yau’s work on the existence of Kähler-Einstein metric led to the solution to the Calabi conjecture and to the concept of Calabi-Yau manifolds, which are cornerstones in string theory and complex geometry. Similarly, the Strominger-Yau-Zaslow construction has had a major impact on mirror symmetry. Yau’s collaboration with Peter Li on heat kernel estimates and differential Harnack inequalities has changed the analysis of geometric equations on manifolds and has influenced the development of optimal transportation and Hamilton’s work on Ricci flow. Yau contributed to the fusion of geometry and analysis, now known as geometric analysis. His work has had a deep and lasting impact on both mathematics and theoretical physics.

The Shaw Prize is awarded annually in three disciplines: Astronomy, Life Sciences and Medicine, and Mathematical Sciences. Each prize carries a gold medal, a certificate, and a monetary award of U.S. $1.2 million. This will be the 20th year that the Prize has been awarded, and the presentation ceremony is scheduled for November 12, 2023 in Hong Kong.

Read the full profile of Harvard Professor Emeritus Shing-Tung Yau in our 2021-2022 Newsletter.