YUAN T. LEE Biography - Famous Scientists

 
 

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YUAN T. LEE

Yuan Tseh Lee (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).                                             
                                                                                                     
Early days                                                                                           
Yuan Tseh Lee (right) as young undergraduate student working at NTU lab in early                     
1960s.Of Fujianese ancestry (specifically, Rongqiao Village, Nan'an County, Quanzhou City),         
Lee was born in Hsinchu City in northern Taiwan to Li Tze-fan,                                       
an accomplished Hsinchu-born artist, and Ts'ai P'ei,                                               
an elementary school teacher from Wuchi Township, Taichung County. Lee                               
played on the baseball and ping-pong teams of Hsinchu Elementary School,                             
and later studied at the Hsinchu Senior High School, 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                       
1980s.                                                                                               
                                                                                                     
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                           
reactions.                                                                                           
                                                                                                     
Political role                                                                                       
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.                                                               
                                                                                                     
Recent works                                                                                         
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 (??? W J?nl?), 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).