Yuan Tseh Lee Biography
- Nobel Prize Winner (1986)
Yuan Tseh Lee (Chinese: 李遠哲
pinyin: Lǐ Yuǎnzhé, Wade-Giles: Li³ Yüan³-che²; pe̍h-ōe-jī: Lí Oán-tiat) (born
November 19, 1936) is a famous chemist. He was the first Taiwanese-born Nobel
Prize laureate, who, along with the German-Canadian John C. Polanyi and American
Dudley R. Herschbach won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1986 "for their
contributions to the dynamics of chemical elementary processes." Lee's
particular work was on crossed molecular beams further towards its use for
general reactions, a method for the study of important reactions for relatively
large molecules. Since January 15, 1994, Lee has been the President of the
Academia Sinica of the Republic of China (ROC; Taiwan).
Yuan Tseh Lee (right) as young undergraduate student working at NTU lab in early
1960s.Of Fujianese ancestry (specifically, Rongqiao Village (榕橋村), Nan'an County
(南安縣), Quanzhou City), Lee was born in Hsinchu City in northern Taiwan to Li Tze-fan
(李澤藩 Lǐ Zéfán), an accomplished Hsinchu-born artist, and Ts'ai P'ei (蔡配 Cài Péi),
an elementary school teacher from Wuchi Township (梧棲鎮), Taichung County. Lee
played on the baseball and ping-pong teams of Hsinchu Elementary School (新竹國小),
and later studied at the Hsinchu Senior High School (竹中), where he played tennis
and trombone. Due to his achievements in high school, he entered National Taiwan
University without taking the entrance examination and earned a B.Sc. in 1959.
He earned a M.S. at National Tsing Hua University in 1961 and Ph.D. at the
University of California, Berkeley in 1965.
Contributions to Chemistry
In February 1967, he started working with Dudley Herschbach at Harvard
University on reactions between hydrogen atoms and diatomic alkali molecules and
the construction of a universal crossed molecular beams apparatus. In 1974, he
returned to Berkeley as professor of chemistry and principal investigator at the
Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, becoming a U.S. citizen the same year. At
Berkeley, Lee retains the title of Professor of the Graduate School Emeritus. He
is also University Professor Emeritus of the University of California system.
Yuan Tseh Lee in his office at department of chemistry in UC Berkeley in early
Road to Nobel prize
Chemical paper print from Chemica scripta containing professor Lee's nobel
lecture in 1986.One of the major goals of chemistry is the study of material
transformations where chemical kinetics plays an important role. Scientists
during the 19th century stated macroscopic chemical processes consist of many
elementary chemical reactions that are themselves simply a series of encounters
between atomic or molecular species. In order to understand the time dependence
of chemical reactions, chemical kineticists have traditionally focused on
sorting out all of the elementary chemical reactions involved in a macroscopic
chemical process and determining their respective rates.
Swedish chemist Svante Arrhenius studied this phenomenon during the late 1880s,
and stated the relations between reactive molecular encounters and rates of
reactions (formulated in terms of activation energies).
Other scientists at the time also stated a chemical reaction is fundamentally a
mechanical event, involving the rearrangement of atoms and molecules during a
collision. Although these initial theoretical studies were only qualitative,
they heralded a new era in the field of chemical kinetics; allowing the
prediction of the dynamical course of a chemical reaction.
In the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s, with the development of many sophisticated
experimental techniques, it became possible to study the dynamics of elementary
chemical reactions in the laboratory. Such as, the analysis of the threshold
operating conditions of a chemical laser or the spectra obtained using various
linear or non-linear laser spectroscopic techniques.
Yuan Tseh Lee receiving Nobel price in chemistry by King Carl XVI Gustaf of
Sweden in 1986.Professor's Lee's research focused on the possibility to control
the energies of the reagents, and to understand the dependence of chemical
reactivity on molecular orientation, among other studies related to the nature
of reaction intermediates, decay dynamics, and identifying complex reaction
mechanisms. To do so, professor Yuan used a breakthrought laboratory technique
at the time, called the "crossed molecular beams technique", where the
information derived from the measurements of angular and velocity distributions
allowed him and his team to understand the dynamics of elementary chemical
Taiwanese president Chen Shui-bian (right) shakes hands with Yuan-tseh Lee. Lee,
was the head of Taiwan's delegation to the 2004 APEC meeting in Chile.Yuan T.
Lee played an important role during the 2000 ROC Presidential election. On the
last week of the election he announced his support for the candidacy of Chen
Shui-bian who subsequently won a narrow victory over James Soong. Chen intended
to nominate Lee to become Premier, but Lee declined after deliberating for a few
days. Lee has been the President of the Academia Sinica since 1994 and renounced
his U.S. citizenship to take the post.
During his tenure, Lee has worked tirelessly to create new research institutes,
advance scientific research within Taiwan, and to recruit and cultivate top
scholars for the Academic Sinica.
Nobel laureate Yuan Tseh Lee head of the delegation of Chinese Taipei talks to
president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo of the Philippines during the 11th Asia
Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Leader's Meeting.However, Lee remains
unpopular among many students and parents who have criticized him for his
involvement in educational reforms that many feel to have put unnecessary burden
and administrative complications on the students and reduced competitiveness of
tertiary education. His critics have often said that Lee should stick to the
sciences and stop using his Nobel pedigree to influence educational and
political policies, areas with which he is not familiar.
At the request of President Chen, Lee was Chinese Taipei's representative in the
2002 APEC leaders' summit in Mexico. (Presidents of the Republic of China have
been barred from joining the APEC summits because of objections from the People's
Republic of China.) Lee represented President Chen again in the 2003 and 2004
APEC summits in Thailand and Chile, respectively.
In January 2004, he and industrial tycoon Wang Yung-ching and theatre director
Lin Hwai-min issued a joint statement asking both Chen Shui-bian and Lien Chan
to "drop hatred and extreme behavior and resort to honesty." This, and other
critical statements of the President, led to speculation that he would not back
Chen again in the 2004 elections until he issued a statement of support for the
DPP on March 17, 3 days before polls opened. In the news, however, this
endorsement was overshadowed by a dispute between DPP legislator Shen Fu-hsiung
and first lady Wu Shu-chen. When ask to comment about the endorsement,
opposition candidate Lien Chan remarked (in English) So what?.
As of 2005, professor Lee is emeritus professor of Physical chemistry at NTU,
and president of Academia Sinica.
Personal life and awards
With his wife Bernice Wu Chin-li (吳錦麗 Wú Jǐnlì), whom Lee has known since
elementary school, he has 3 children: Ted (news broadcasting personnel), Sidney
(doctor), and Charlotte (sociologist).
Lee was one of the four Nobelists who established the Wu Chien-Shiung Foundation.
In addition to the Nobel Prize, his awards and distinctions include Sloan Fellow
(1969); Fellow of American Academy of Arts and Sciences (1975); Fellow Am. Phys.
Soc. (1976); Guggenheim Fellow (1977); Member National Academy of Sciences
(1979); Member International Academy of Science, Member Academia Sinica (1980);
E.O. Lawrence Award (1981); Miller Professor, Berkeley (1981); Fairchild
Distinguished Scholar (1983); Harrison Howe Award (1983); Peter Debye Award
(1986); National Medal of Science (1986).
LIST OF NOBEL PRIZE WINNERS IN
CHEMISTRY PART II.
Grubbs Robert H
Harden Sir Arthur
Sir Walter Norman
Hoff Jacobus Henricus
Kendrew Sir John
Klug Sir Aaron
Kroto Sir Harold
Libby Willard Frank
MacDiarmid Alan G
Marcus Rudolph A
Martin Archer John
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