The Shape of a Life One Mathematician's Search for the Universe's Hidden Geometry Shing-Tung Yau, Steve Nadis

Publication date:
09 Apr 2019
Yale University Press
328 pages: 235 x 156 x 24mm
49 b-w illus.
Sales territories:

Buy this eBook

You can purchase this title from a number of online retailers:

A Fields medalist recounts his lifelong transnational effort to uncover the geometric shapethe Calabi-Yau manifoldthat may store the hidden dimensions of our universe.
“An unexpectedly intimate look into a highly accomplished man, his colleagues and friends, the development of a new field of geometric analysis, and a glimpse into a truly uncommon mind.”—Nina MacLaughlin, Boston Globe

“Engaging, eminently readable . . . For those with a taste for elegant and largely jargon-free explanations of mathematics, The Shape of a Life promises hours of rewarding reading.”—Judith Goodstein, American Scientist 

Harvard geometer and Fields medalist Shing-Tung Yau has provided a mathematical foundation for string theory, offered new insights into black holes, and mathematically demonstrated the stability of our universe. In this autobiography, Yau reflects on his improbable journey to becoming one of the world’s most distinguished mathematicians. Beginning with an impoverished childhood in China and Hong Kong, Yau takes readers through his doctoral studies at Berkeley during the height of the Vietnam War protests, his Fields Medal–winning proof of the Calabi conjecture, his return to China, and his pioneering work in geometric analysis. This new branch of geometry, which Yau built up with his friends and colleagues, has paved the way for solutions to several important and previously intransigent problems.

With complicated ideas explained for a broad audience, this book offers readers not only insights into the life of an eminent mathematician, but also an accessible way to understand advanced and highly abstract concepts in mathematics and theoretical physics.

Shing-Tung Yau is the William Caspar Graustein Professor of Mathematics at Harvard University. He has been awarded a Fields Medal, a MacArthur Fellowship, a National Medal of Science, the Wolf Prize in Mathematics, the Crafoord Prize, the Veblen Prize, and other honors. Steve Nadis is a science writer and contributing editor to Astronomy and Discover magazines.

“The book is an unexpectedly intimate look into a highly accomplished man, his colleagues and friends, the development of a new field of geometric analysis, and a glimpse into a truly uncommon mind.”—Nina MacLaughlin, Boston Globe

"For decades, mathematician Shing-Tung Yau—a winner of the 1982 Fields Medal—has been central to the cross-fertilization between modern mathematics and physics. His work in geometry, for instance, underlies much of string theory. This volume, co-authored with science writer Steve Nadis, is an intimate account of Yau’s life”—Barbara Kiser, Nature

“An eye-opening and insightful account. . . . Yau’s life story is an inspiring example of the power of education.”—Dan Eady, South China Morning Post

“A real story of a remarkable mathematician and of contemporary mathematics, written with passion by one of the key players”—Peter Giblin, The Mathematical Gazette

Finalist in the  PROSE Awards mathematics category, sponsored by the Association of American Publishers

“Yau and Nadis’s The Shape of a Life opens a window into the fascinating mind and world of today’s equivalent of Apollonius of Perga, ‘The Great Geometer’ of antiquity.”—Mario Livio, author of Brilliant Blunders

"The interesting life of a remarkably influential modern mathematician."—Juan Maldacena, Institute for Advanced Study

“This book tells a fascinating story of a life lived between multiple cultures—China and the West, and mathematics and physics. Yau's journey from poverty in Hong Kong to the top levels of the mathematics world was not a simple one.”—Edward Witten, Institute for Advanced Study

"Candid, deep, and truly inspiring, The Shape of a Life is studded with unexpected insights into Yau's thinking. An extraordinary story about an extraordinary person."—Gish Jen, author of The Girl at the Baggage Claim: Explaining the East-West Culture Gap

“The remarkable story of one of the world's most accomplished mathematicians, Shing-Tung Yau, who has made profound contributions in pure mathematics, general relativity, and string theory. Yau’s personal journey—from escaping China as a youngster, leading a gang outside Hong Kong, becoming captivated by mathematics, to making breakthroughs that thrust him on the world stage—inspires us all with humankind's irrepressible spirit of discovery.”—Brian Greene, author of The Elegant Universe