SAMUEL CHAO CHUNG TING Biography - Famous Scientists


Biography » famous scientists » samuel chao chung ting


I was born on 27 January 1936 in Ann Arbor, Michigan, the first of three                 
children of Kuan Hai Ting, a professor of engineering, and Tsun-Ying Wang, a             
professor of psychology. My parents had hoped that I would be born in China, but         
as I was born prematurely while they were visiting the United States, by                 
accident of birth I became an American citizen. Two months after my birth we             
returned to China. Owing to wartime conditions I did not have a traditional               
education until I was twelve. Nevertheless, my parents were always associated             
with universities, and I thus had the opportunity of meeting the many                     
accomplished scholars who often visited us. Perhaps because of this early                 
infiuence I have always had the desire to be associated with university life.             
Since both my parents were working, I was brought up by my maternal grandmother.         
My maternal grandfather lost his life during the first Chinese Revolution. After         
that, at the age of thirty-three, my grandmother decided to go to school, became         
a teacher, and brought my mother up alone. When I was young I often heard                 
stories from my mother and grandmother recalling the difficult lives they had             
during that turbulent period and the efforts they made to provide my mother with         
a good education. Both of them were daring, original, and determined people, and         
they have left an indelible impression on me.                                             
When I was twenty years old I decided to return to the United States for a               
better education. My parents' friend, G.G. Brown, Dean of the School of                   
Engineering, University of Michigan, told my parents I would be welcome to stay           
with him and his family. At that time I knew very little English and had no idea         
of the cost of living in the United States. In China, I had read that many               
American students go through college on their own resources. I informed my               
parents that I would do likewise. I arrived at the Detroit airport on 6                   
September 1956 with $100, which at the time seemed more than adequate. I was             
somewhat frightened, did not know anyone, and communication was difficult.               
Since I depended on scholarships for my education, I had to work very hard to             
keep them. Somehow, I managed to obtain degrees in both mathematics and physics           
from the University of Michigan in three years, and completed my Ph.D. degree in         
physics under Drs. L.W. Jones and M.L. Perl in 1962.                                     
I went to the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) as a Ford                 
Foundation Fellow. There I had the good fortune to work with Giuseppe Cocconi at         
the Proton Synchrotron, and I learned a lot of physics from him. He always had a         
simple way of viewing a complicated problem, did experiments with great care,             
and impressed me deeply.                                                                 
In the spring of 1965 I returned to the United States to teach at Columbia               
University. In those years the Columbia Physics Department was a very                     
stimulating place, and I had the opportunity of watching people such as L.               
Lederman, T.D. Lee, I.I. Rabi, M. Schwarts, J. Steinberger, C.S. Wu, and others.         
They all had their own individual style and extremely good taste in physics. I           
benefitted greatly from my short stay at Columbia.                                       
In my second year at Columbia there was an experiment done at the Cambridge               
Electron Accelerator on electron-positron pair production by photon collision             
with a nuclear target. It seemed to show a violation of quantum electrodynamics.         
I studied this experiment in detail and decided to duplicate it. I contacted G.           
Weber and W. Jentschke of the Deutsches Elektronen Synchrotron (DESY) about the           
possibility of doing a pair production experiment at Hamburg. They were very             
enthusiastic and encouraged me to begin right away. In March 1966 I took leave           
from Columbia University to perform this experiment in Hamburg. Since that time           
I have devoted all my efforts to the physics of electron or muon pairs,                   
investigating quantum electrodynamics, production and decay of photon-like               
particles, and searching for new particles which decay to electron or muon pairs.         
These types of experiments are characterized by the need for a high-intensity             
incident flux, for high rejection against a large number of unwanted background           
events, and at the same time the need for a detector with good mass resolution.           
In order to search for new particles at a higher mass, I brought my group back           
to the United States in 1971 and started an experiment at Brookhaven National             
Laboratory. In the fall of 1974 we found evidence of a new, totally unpredicted,         
heavy particle - the J particle. Since then a whole family of new particles has           
been found.                                                                               
In 1969 I joined the Physics Department of the Massachusetts Institute of                 
Technology (MIT). In 1977, I was appointed as the first Thomas Dudley Cabot               
Institute Professor of Physics at MIT. In recent years it has been my privilege           
to be associated with M. Deutsch, A.G. Hill, H. Feshbach, W. Jentschke, H.               
Schopper and G. Weber. All have strongly supported me. In addition, I have               
enjoyed working with many very outstanding young physicists such as U. Becker, J.         
Burger, M. Chen, R. Marshall and A.J.S. Smith.                                           
I married Dr. Susan Marks in 1985. We have one son, Christopher, born in 1986             
and I have two daughters, Jeanne and Amy, from an earlier marriage.                       
I have been awarded the Ernest Orlando Lawrence Award from the US government in           
1976 and the DeGasperi Award in Science from the Italian government in 1988. I           
have also received the Eringen Medal awarded by the Society of Engineering               
Science in 1977, the Golden Leopard Award for Excellence from the town of                 
Taormina, Italy in 1988 and the Gold Medal for Science and Peace from the city           
of Brescia, Italy in 1988. I am a member of the National Academy of Sciences (US)         
and the American Physical Society, the Italian Physical Society and the European         
Physical Society. I have also been elected as a foreign member in Academia               
Sinica, the Pakistan Academy of Science and the Academy of Science of the USSR (now       
Russian Academy of Science). I also hold Doctor Honoris Causa degrees from the           
University of Michigan, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Columbia University,         
the University of Bologna, Moscow State University and the University of Science         
and Technology in China and am an honorary professor at Jiatong University in             
Shanghai, China.