Yang, Chen Ning (1922 -) a Chinese-born physicist, shared the 1957 Nobel Prize in physics with Chinese-born American physicist Tsung-Dao Lee. They disproved the law of conservation of parity, which concerned the interactions of fundamental nuclear particles.
Yang was born in Hefei, Anhui, China, and attended Tsinghua University in Beijing. After the Japanese invaded China in 1937, several schools, including Tsinghua, were consolidated into the Southwest Associated University in K'un-ming, where Yang earned his bachelor's degree in 1942. His future research partner, Tsung-Dao Lee, also studied there. In 1945, Yang received a fellowship to the University of Chicago, where Lee was also a doctoral candidate. Yang received his doctor's degree in physics in 1948. In 1949, he went to the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey, and in 1955 he became a permanent staff member.
In the early 1950's, scientists became puzzled by variations in the weak interactions of subatomic particles called k-mesons, which did not follow the law of conservation of parity. The law assumed that the forces within an atom had “right-left symmetry.” Therefore, the same experiment, carried out on an atom and its mirror image, should produce the same reaction.
To explain the k-meson interactions, Yang and Lee proposed a new theory. Experimental physicist Chien-Shiung Wu and others conducted complex experiments to test it. They concluded that most subatomic particles had either a right-or left-handedness in the direction of their spin and decayed into different states. Yang and Lee's disproving of the conservation of parity theory opened new avenues of study for physicists.
Yang joined the faculty of the State University of New York (SUNY) at Stony Brook in 1966. He has worked to promote academic and diplomatic relationships between the United States and China.